AWRIGHT DEN!: Our greatest gift
Let me begin by saying how much I appreciate your emails each week. It is truly encouraging when I read how this column has been an inspiration to you and that each Thursday you purposely buy a Nation just to read it. Just as this column encourages you, I am equally encouraged by your emails, so please keep them coming.
Many times when I need some inspiration, I turn to the book of Proverbs. Chapter 18:15-16 states: “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.” (NASB)
This verse isn’t new to me but for some reason, when I read it this time, I immediately thought about our Government’s position as it relates to free tertiary education.
If you analyse history and study those persons who have positively influenced the world, you would recognise there is something consistent and common among them: they all had a gift, which “made room for them”. It is that gift they poured their resources and energy into and also offered the greatest protection. Those gifts made them unique, marketable and gave them a competitive advantage. Just as this is true for individuals, this is true for companies, organisations and countries. For example: Apple – technology; Nike – sports shoes; Finland – education; Jamaica – athletics and reggae; Trinidad – Carnival; St Lucia – weddings; Australia – animals; UNICEF – children.
What is/was Barbados’ gift? What is/was our competitive advantage? What is/was attractive about us?
As I sat last week with Ambassador Larry Palmer, his distinguished staff and fellow stakeholders in youth development at the United States Embassy, the answers to the above questions were revealed as we listened to President Obama speak at the Town Hall With Young Leaders Of The Americas in Jamaica.
President Obama said: “If you look at some of the most successful countries in the world, there are actually very small countries like Singapore for example that, on paper, look like they have no assets, yet if you go to Singapore it has one of the highest standards of living in the world. What is it that Singapore did that might be replicable? One of the most important things they did was they made an investment in their people and if you’ve got a highly skilled, highly educated workforce, if you set up rules of law and governance that are transparent and non-corrupt, then you can attract actually a lot of service industries to supplement the tourist industry, ’cause people would want to locate in your country. You could envision people wanting to operate and have offices there where you’ve got a trained workforce and these days, so many businesses are operating over the Internet that if you’ve got a really skilled workforce that provides value added, you’ll attract companies and businesses.”
Interestingly enough, President Obama’s comment isn’t different from what many Barbadians have said about the Government’s decision as it relates to tertiary education, which has disadvantaged lower to middle income families and also threatens the future success and attractiveness of this country.
Having a highly educated populace at the tertiary level made us unique, attractive and also gave us a competitive advantage. It provided confidence and a sense of security for business owners both locally and foreign; it significantly contributed to good governance, and ordered and peaceful communities; it attracted tourists since education is linked to national stability and security; it created, built and sustained national pride, and also provided opportunities for Barbadians to compete for jobs on the international market.
Education is to Barbados what oil is to Saudi Arabia; diamond is to India; petroleum is to Nigeria; sugar is to Brazil; tourism is to the British Virgin Islands; rice is to China and weapon sales are to Russia. Tertiary education is too important to Barbados for it not to be accessible by all.
• Corey Worrell is a former Commonwealth Youth Ambassador. Email [email protected]