The Way Forward
The importance of Education to Barbados and its people and economy has been recognised by the Democrat Labour Party (DLP) through Barbados’ history of governance. In addition to the positive impact on the economy, the value to society from the income of educated persons is much higher than costs incurred while they are being educated, confirming that net returns are positive. In Barbados, education has proven to be a means of avoiding poverty and creating upward mobility, both at the individual level and at the national level. Through its cumulative ability to assist in the delivery of a higher quality of goods and services it raises the country’s standard of living. The importance of education is therefore unassailable. The questionable issues often are: what should be delivered? How should it be delivered? And who should fund its delivery?
Nursery & Primary Level
Since 2008, the DLP Administration has enhanced both the social and physical infrastructure for the 21st century of education in Barbados. This Stuart led government carried out 75 assessments on primary and nursery schools across the island. It was found that due to 14 years of neglect, the schools were in an unhealthy state. The DLP therefore began to rectify this situation during the past 6 years. This was done through the following measures: the construction of the Blackman Gollop, St. Ambrose Primary School and the Maria Holder Nursery School; the completion of Reynold Weekes Primary School; and the establishment of the Thelma Berry Nursery School; among others. All of these have been done in making primary and nursery education more productive and assessable during the worst economic crisis that this country has ever faced since independence. This DLP government should therefore be commended for still having the educational development of this country and its people as a top priority, albeit with scarce resources.
Secondary & Post-Secondary Level
Minister Jones fully endorsed the DLP conviction that education is the greatest liberating force in human life, and therefore recognises the importance of secondary and tertiary education. As a result, this government has implemented polices and projects such as: the construction of an Information Technology wing at Harrison College; a new 14-classroom annex at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (SJPP); the completion of the Language Centre at the Barbados Community College (BCC); the establishment of the Barbados Human Resource Development Strategy; to name a few. Most recently, the BCC has announced plans to upgrade some programmes to the bachelor degree level. Moreover, both the BCC and the SJPP are making it easier for students to work and study.
Meanwhile, it has been a year since government had announced that it will no longer pay the full tuition cost of students at the University of the West Indies (UWI), starting from this year. This came with much back and forth debate. This measure, which the Minister of Finance took in the last budget, was measurable and was not merely to impose unnecessary hardship. This move came as a part of restructuring our economy as we face this economic crisis. Nevertheless, the fact remains, that some students would not be able to afford these fees. As a result, the government under the competent leadership of Prime Minister Stuart, like a caring government would, heard the concerns of the people by making 3000 bursaries available to UWI students. For this, the entire Cabinet should be commended for continuing to look out for the masses of this country, especially the young people of Barbados.
At the moment, the DLP administration has the massive responsibility of safely navigating our country through the most challenging period of the country’s history. It faces a difficult decision on whether to make cuts within the educational sector or continue to fund it entirely, which is evidently unsustainable! In spite of such a challenge, this competent and success driven administration has not given up, and has remained focused on the task at hand. As the start of a new school year approaches, thanks to this competent government, all primary and secondary schools will be reopen on time and children will continue to travel on Transport Board buses free of cost. As it relates SJPP, BCC and UWI, Barbadian students will continue to pursue their tertiary education. Sadly, there are some people in this country who seek not to contemplate solutions to the problems that are facing the country, but rather to cry down governments’ polices and to put their political agendas before the interest of their country. Nevertheless, the Government stays focused in exploring new ways to facilitate and finance the high cost of education.