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Sir Hilary: Women, poor, youth at risk

mialisafenty, [email protected]

Sir Hilary: Women, poor, youth at risk

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THE UNIVERSITY of the West Indies (UWI) has to guard against having fees so prohibitive that poor people, women and youths stay away.
Pro-vice chancellor and principal, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, delivered this word of advice Tuesday evening during the 2014 Student Awards Ceremony at the Cave Hill Campus.
Against the backdrop of a Government decision that makes Barbadian students pay more for their tuition come September, Sir Hilary said it was not the principle of students contributing to their education – or putting “something in the kitty” – that was wrong but “the implementation of the principle” and its management.
He pointed out that 72 per cent of Cave Hill’s students were female, some 80 per cent were of a working class background and 60 per cent were youths, so Cave Hill had a population that was “mostly women, mostly poor, mostly young”.
“A strategy then that closes the door upon a significant sector of the population entering into the university must be read therefore as a narrowing of opportunities for women, a narrowing of opportunities for the poor and a narrowing of opportunities for the young,” he said.
“It cannot therefore be sustainable that a society would wish to treat access to higher education in this way, that women, the poor and the youth should carry a disproportionate share of the cost,” he told the more than 200 students gathered in the Roy Marshall Teaching Complex.
Sir Hilary reported that earlier in the day a female student had told him she had three children at Cave Hill but could not afford “for any of them to continue”.
He recalled that about seven years ago Cave Hill had asked students to pay $500 towards their education and they had protested. He said had he known then that $500 would have turned to $10 000 today, he would not have supported that decision.
He said in his early school days he discovered that students without books or with limited access to them sometimes performed better than those who owned them, proving that “ability has nothing to do with class”.
However, he noted that money could give access to an educational “space”.
A major concern of his now as principal was “the exclusion of the children of the poor” from educational opportunities, he told the students, their parents, wards and friends.
He said what was going on now was not a conversation about political parties. While political parties were critical to the survival of democracy, they needed to be guided by society to make the best decisions possible, he commented.
He said no one should say that an island called Barbados had an inferior academy at Cave Hill.
“This academy has to be the finest that money can buy,” he declared.
He said the UWI was concerned with issues of social equity, equality and the kind of society that should be built.
It was concerned with producing citizens who were respectful, tolerant, elegant and keen on values such as gratitude, according to Sir Hilary.
At the ceremony, more than $800 000 in funds for individual students, including scholarships, book prizes and special awards, were handed out.
Among the major financiers were the UWI – about $396 000; the Central Bank of Barbados – $58 000; CIBC First Caribbean International Bank – $75 000 and Sol Caribbean – $284 000.
Sir Hilary said no university could prosper “without the generosity of its stakeholders”, including governments and the private sector.