Thursday, April 25, 2024

What goes around, comes around


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We all know about the possibility of two worlds colliding but the past week in Barbados saw the impossible of one world colliding with itself.
Hundred of students, many in a state of extreme stress, awaited examination results. Eventually,  pre-fifth formers would learn what head start, if any, they would achieve for future CXC examinations.
Fifth formers would learn about their chances  of graduating into a sixth form school or Community College. And for sixth formers it would be the knowledge of whether they would continue their education at university as a Barbados Scholarship  or Exhibition winner or, if not among that elite few,  as a traditional state-sponsored and paid for student at the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Waiting for the results was like “pulling teet”  and when it was all over, students and parents alike shared successes worldwide, directly and indirectly,  by phone and landline, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and WhatsApp, Skype and OoVoo, text messages  and email.
But what gave a select number gripe was having  to wait for extra days to discover who would be awarded Barbados Scholarships and Exhibitions.  I had both a granddaughter and a niece-in-law in  that mix and it was heart wrenching calling contacts in the media around the clock trying to find out if the minister or the ministry had broken the agonizing silence they had attributed to having to wait  to present the results to Cabinet first.
By coincidence, the rest of Barbados was also having gripe waiting to hear what bitter pills they would be ask to swallow in the Budget to be presented in Parliament. Given the state of the economy, everyone anticipated the worst in terms of taxation, cuts in public spending and even layoffs among those pills but no one expected the collision of university education with itself and the resulting end of the Bajan world of “free” at that level.
For my generation, having to pay was nothing new. In our day, no such thing as free education existed beyond primary level. Whether you were at Coleridge or Parry in the north, Lodge in the east, Harrison, Queen’s and Combermere in The City or any other  in between, Government or private, at the start  of every term you turned up with your fees in your pocket or you didn’t turn up.
At university level, it was the same story but associated exclusively with overseas institutions since the only Cave Hills that existed then were residential districts in St Michael, St Lucy and other parishes.
But everything that goes around, comes around  and we are now back around to when people like me and Dick Hoad and Carl Moore were spraining our brains in Harrison College.
Nevertheless, examination successes overwhelmed the bitter Budget pills and my tribe was able  to expand the celebration of my grandson Akeel Gill’s graduation from free UWI with upper second class honours to include granddaughter Gabrielle Boyce  and niece-in-law Ashley McCarthy for being awarded Barbados Exhibitions, granddaughter Bianca Boyce for copping eight CXC ones that included six with distinction and granddaughter Shaddae Lewis for gaining two first-try CXCs, including a distinction.
Hopefully, this year’s pills will relieve the economic headache, otherwise it’s quite likely that other worlds of free education might also have to self-destruct.
• Al Gilkes heads a public relations firm. Email

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