Historian warns Govt that free tertiary education is the only way out for the poor

Historian Dr Henderson Carter has warned that the poor in Barbados cannot emerge from their state of economic deprivation without free university education.

Delivering a lecture here last night in celebration of the 375th anniversary of the Parliament, the University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer said there could be no mistaking the impact free education has had on Barbadian society.

The historian, whose comments come on the heels of the Government’s recent introduction of tuition fees for UWI students, traced the early struggle that led to Parliament’s approval of free education in the 1960s.

Historian and UWI lecturer Dr Henderson Carter.
Historian and UWI lecturer Dr Henderson Carter.

He was also insistent that Barbadians deserved free education because their foreparents had fought hard for it.

“State-funded education is the only way out for the poor in this country. There is no other way, except of course if you play Lotto where you could win a million dollars, but that’s a luck and a chance,” he said at the Frank Collymore Hall to an audience, which included Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave and a number of parliamentarians, including Minister of Education Ronald Jones.

“It is the only way up for the poor. And my view is that the children of the poor, the children of the maids and gas attendants must always have access to free tertiary education. Their ancestors have already paid for it.”

In his presentation entitled 60 years of parliamentary democracy, Carter recalled the process that led to the so called “education revolution”.

“On the 23rd of July 1962, Parliament voted $41,000 to the governing bodies of the 10 Government-aided grammar schools and that money was to pay the fees which would have been normally paid by parents,” he said.

Then Premier Errol Barrow went a bit further when he encouraged the establishment of a university campus here, and stated in the parliamentary debate of February 19, 1963 that “there will be no question of any sixth of fifth former leaving any secondary school, whether private or government-aided in this island, who is qualified to enter the university being deprived of the benefit of university education”.

Carter said this move not only broke the system of inequality and spurred economic development, but also provided human resources in the context of very few natural resources, and led in part to Barbados’ high United Nations human development ranking.

On the matter of education’s removal of inequalities, he said “the capacity to be educated and to obtain a secondary and a tertiary education placed the sons of maids, and gas attendants and gardeners alongside the sons and the   daughters of merchants and planters”.

Having young Barbadians sit in a class with the children of the merchant and planter class represented a truly revolutionary development, Carter stressed.

He had earlier pointed out that the Parliament of  Barbados, prior to the last 60 years, was the exclusive domain of that ruling group, with the name ‘Chandler’ dominating its hallowed halls for 84 years.

However, the struggle of Barbadians that culminated with the 1937 rebellion brought about changes, which saw the voting population move from 3,500 in 1935 to 29,102 persons in 1948. Propelled by Universal Adult Suffrage, the voting population became truly representative with over 95,939 on the register in 1952.

“That broke therefore the hold of the planters, the hold of the merchants on working class. And it ushered in therefore a period of parliamentary democracy,” Carter said.

Fast-forwarding to Barbados today, the lecturer spoke of a truly representative Parliament empowering its people to go to secondary school, college and university to provide the human resources the country needed.

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