EDITORIAL: Sir Hilary’s vision moving to the Caribbean stage
TODAY we applaud Sir Hilary Beckles on his installation as Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI).
All Barbadians should be proud that this son of the soil has been judged fit to oversee the region’s largest tertiary education institution, with its campuses in Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica, and close association with others in Guyana and The Bahamas.
We have also taken note of the tone, content and context of the speech delivered by Sir Hilary at his installation last weekend at the Usain Bolt Sports Complex in Black Rock, a part of the ever-expanding Cave Hill Campus, and believe it set the scene for what should be a successful tenure.
Of particular interest was this statement from the noted historian and education administrator: “We are at the bottom of the hemisphere pile in terms of the number of our citizens between the ages of 18 and 30 who are enrolled in higher education . . . . We need to see at least one graduate of our university and colleges in every household in the Caribbean.”
Sir Hilary, in these two sentences, acknowledged a point of disagreement with some Government spokesmen in recent years, while at the same time sticking to a position he has stoutly defended, even in the face of strident opposition.
Over the years he has championed a national approach that promoted a university education in every Barbadian household, but as the cost of this education became harder to bear, others have said this should not be limited to UWI. Their contention is that a larger public good would be served if the “one graduate per household” included those who had successfully completed certain programmes at the Barbados Community College and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic.
As Sir Hilary moves up to serve a larger Caribbean public, we believe his statement should send a signal to the Barbados Government as well as other governments of CARICOM that his intention is to establish and maintain a mature, embracing approach that can only do the region good.
For all Caribbean governments at this time, getting maximum returns from their investments in the education of their people must dictate that where a quality education can be delivered more cost effectively at an institution other than a UWI campus, it is an alternative that must be exploited.
In fact, with all its accumulated expertise, we believe the UWI under Sir Hilary is well placed to assist these other tertiary institutions in setting up programmes that can be accredited internationally, and at times even entering relationships that could lead to co-certification by UWI itself.
After working hard to build student enrolment at the Cave Hill Campus to just under 10 000, we are sure Sir Hilary is not happy that circumstances have led to that number dropping by more than 40 per cent on the eve of his elevation. But his
tone, and recent comments from members of the Freundel Stuart Government, suggest that a rigorous effort at rebuilding is coming. We are sure that with Hilary in the vice-chancellor’s chair and his former deputy, Professor Eudine Barriteau, sitting as the new principal at Cave Hill, working together, the Hill can’t but rebound.