EDITORIAL: Barriteau must chart a new way
BARBADIANS HAVE LONG seen education as a pathway to social mobility, a higher standard of living and the creation of wealth for those who make use of the opportunity. This has been true over the past 50 years with not only secondary education being made easily accessible, but that at the tertiary level as well.
The provision of “free” education has long become a fundamental goal of political parties which recognised the returns it brings in terms of the overall development of the country. It has resulted in more people off welfare, the ability to create higher quality jobs and the opportunity to develop the country at a much faster rate. The general understanding is that many Barbadians are in need of a good education – academic and technical – and must therefore be provided the opportunity to attend college.
Economic realities now provide a challenge of how to provide it within a tight fiscal environment. The state does not have an unlimited wallet and the money problems over the past five years have made clear this reality. Funding tertiary education and health care makes huge demands on the national budget despite the returns to every expectant citizen.
What is undeniably needed with both health and tertiary education are sustainable financing models. In education, not only the Cave Hill Campus, but the Barbados Community College, Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic and Erdiston Teachers’ Training College must all be financially stable. None must be forgotten in preference to the other.
This is where the newly appointed principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor Eudine Barriteau, must show leadership and be a trailblazer. Following Government’s cutback in funding to the UWI, it is obvious her primary focus will be on getting enrolment back up while ensuring the campus’ sustainability.
But she must of necessity work with all these institutions to create a new way forward. She must ensure there is no unnecessary duplication and that they work to complement each other. Her goal must be one which focuses not merely on physical expansion and to grow numbers, but most certainly on relevance.
While we must demand operational efficiency across the tertiary level institutions, we must also call for enhanced academic quality and excellence.
At whatever institution, we must have students graduating who can communicate, reason and think more effectively. After all, it’s at these institutions where our leaders of tomorrow will be developed.
Professor Barriteau is fortunate. She starts with a commitment from Government to help grow and develop the campus. It understands the university’s importance to the society and that it cannot be diminished. She must not blindly walk the causeway of her predecessor, Sir Hilary Beckles, the university’s new vice-chancellor. She needs to quickly establish her own hill.