Friday, April 19, 2024

AWRIGHT DEN!: September prank


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TUESDAY MORNING was bittersweet for me after viewing the front page of THE NATION newspaper. I was so pleased to see one of our nation’s children, Honekia Husbands, being internationally acknowledged for her excellent artwork. And then below that item was a depressing plan outlined by Minister of Education Ronald Jones.
The article read: “Minister of Education Ronald Jones has disclosed that consideration is being given to reducing the number of National Development Scholarships awarded each year.” It went on: “Jones said the number of National Development Scholarships – given to candidates pursuing courses considered to be critical for national development – could be reduced significantly.”
I honestly couldn’t believe what I was reading, and even now I’m still in shock. I am now convinced that the current administration has launched a chemical war against education and the working class of this country. Yes, I used the word chemical because their attacks are distorting the chemical balance of our emotions.
The Government is planning to cut scholarships for courses critical to national development from 23 to a mere five or six in an attempt to cut costs. Let me say it again: critical for national development.
Please tell me this is a joke; tell me this is a September prank. Imagine, tomorrow my twin brother and I will turn 31, and this is the gift we are being presented with.
If this is my birthday gift, I am not too interested in what is coming for Christmas.
If the courses are critical to our development, how can you reduce them by 78 per cent? Based on your action plan, they can’t be classified as critical anymore.
The Government just crushed the hopes of many Barbadians by making them pay tuition fees at the University of the West Indies, and now it is attempting to further push working class people into the ground by cutting opportunities for their children to contribute to the critical areas in this country. They are also adding fuel to the fire by making it even more difficult than it already is for those at sixth form and college level to gain access to national scholarships.
There was no mention that if there is a rebound in the economy that the number of scholarships would be readjusted upwards. There is a perception brewing that the budgetary plans to stabilize the economy almost seem incapable of working. If that is the case, am I to expect that scholarship programmes will be made obsolete? Will training awards and study leave for workers end? Will we have to start paying for school meals? Will petty fees go up?
Students who pursue courses overseas don’t only receive a degree. They are given the unique opportunity to live in an international country and to build relationships and foster networks with people of various cultures. They are able to observe the implementation of policies and programmes that added to productivity. They become globally minded and when they return to Barbados, they bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience to add to this country’s development.
I am living proof that interacting and working in the international community can make you a more mature, globally minded and knowledgeable person. Serving in Uganda, Malaysia, Israel, Finland, Germany, Amsterdam, Australia, Haiti, Britain and North and South America has contributed significantly to my development. Since resigning as the Commonwealth Youth Ambassador three years ago (a post that this Government has not filled as yet), I have deeply missed those opportunities. My soul and heart cry out to be travelling again because I know what it does for me.
I want those same opportunities for my people. If it changed me and added to my development, it can do the same for them.
When you are not in a particular place, you have no influence or voice there. Having our students at international universities means Barbados has some sort of representation and is able to contribute to the global discussion.
Our nation’s competitive advantage is our educated human capital. Let’s protect our investment and watch it grow.
• Corey Worrell is a former Commonwealth Youth Ambassador.


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