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ALL AH WE IS ONE: Socialized education?


Tennyson Joseph

ALL AH WE IS ONE: Socialized education?

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It is heartening to witness a shift in the debate on free education in Barbados, away from the narrow accounting focus on “cutting” to a broader question of identifying the social responsibility of students who have had the benefit of free education.  
I write specifically of the intervention made by Keith Simmons, a former Minister of Education, who as mentioned in the Editorial of the DAILY Nation of Monday, February 21, suggested that a requirement of national service should be placed upon students who are entering the University of the West Indies (UWI). According to the Editorial, Mr Simmons suggested that “all students, on entry to the university, should sign a contract in which they were mandated to dedicate three hours to teaching those primary school students who may be falling behind in class”.  
Long before the debate on the cost of education began to take root in Barbados, I have had occasion, in the free and liberated territory of the lecture room, to describe Barbadian socialism as “take socialism”.
I have always raised the question to my Barbadian students of their responsibility to the society that has provided them freely with such an expensive social good but has never demanded anything of them in return.  
Indeed, I once suggested to my students that given the economic downturn, it was very likely that the society would become increasingly less tolerant of their pampered existence. I suggested, also, that the Students’ Guild, if it were a politically conscious and mature organization, would itself have beaten others to the draw and proposed responsibilities upon the student body, before having to be pushed in that direction.
Instead, what has come out of the guild is the continual whingeing for more time and for the further extension of privilege without responsibility. Barbadian students see free education as a right, but very few of them have the political consciousness to accept the social responsibilities that come with it.
If one were to find fault with Keith Simmons’ proposal, it would be that it was too timid on the side of caution. Yet, despite its caution, it has received only a lukewarm response from the powers that be. In contrast, not only would I advocate the role of UWI students in educating the primary school students, but I would extend the concept of national service to every aspect of national life for which the student body may have particular aptitudes.
Thus, medical science students would give national service in the nursing homes and geriatric wards, and social science students would save the statistical bureau the cost of paying census enumerators. In the process, these students would build consciousness and would grow from these experiences.
Students should remember the experiences of their Cuban counterparts, who abolished illiteracy and established record sugar harvests.
The debate, though, is widening. Foward ever, backward never!!

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