Tuesday, April 23, 2024

TONI THORNE: UWI fees will set new tone for students


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JUST HOW are students of the University of the West Indies (UWI) at Cave Hill coping under the new regime of fee payment?

This legitimate interest of mine led me to ask a couple of the young ladies on my team, who are current students there, about the general sentiment with respect to the fees which were established last semester. I wanted some kind of clarity on how students were coping and continue to cope as I heard of no recent major outcries or planned protests.

Whilst some have stated that it is a testimony of the passive nature of Barbadians, a more positive view is that it is the resilience of our people and our ability to make adjustments to our lives in our country’s tough economic times.

I am thankful to have gone to UWI in a time when the majority of my tertiary education was subsidised. I was a part of the “Paul era”. Many of us of the “Paul era” have benefited greatly. Moreover, thousands of working class Barbadians were given the opportunity, through education, to pursue their dreams and attain professional success.

Whilst there may be reasonable claims that some in the “Paul era” wasted the taxpayers’ money and spent years liming at the institution, this is a harsh judgement as in every situation there are bad apples.

The current students who now have to pay fees are referred to as being in the “Peter era”. It is no exaggeration that classes have reduced in size and many have been struggling to finance their university education.

There is a view that when pitched against other university fees globally, UWI’s fees are still way below what is charged to other students.

There is a school of thought that it is better to teach a man to fish than to give him a fish.

Perhaps we have been enabling our citizens for too long and it is time that we learn that Barbados, whilst referred to as paradise, is not Utopia.

Perhaps once done, the quality of our graduates will strengthen our society and will no longer be subjected to complaints by employers for not being “world class”.

Some have also claimed that the vision of “one graduate per household” was a pipe dream – describing it as financially unrealistic, occurring rapidly and seen as “watering down” the quality of the degree that Cave Hill offers.

It is unfortunate that such a vision could be criticised in a country which lauds an older vision of free education for all.

We are paying a very high price in education for the economic downturn that our country is experiencing.

Whilst I do empathise with those of the “Peter era”, I know that there are benefits to be accrued for those who are steadfast and focused on success.

It is my hope that those who have not been able to attend UWI will see entrepreneurship as a viable career option, thereby contributing to an increased entrepreneurial class in our country.

Those who do attain a UWI education (whilst entrepreneurship is available to them as well) would hopefully be a more responsible, creative workforce that has a heightened, evolved understanding of hard work and the rewards that it brings.

That said, those who have been fortunate to afford the fees or receive loans and grants to study for their degrees will be expecting a lot more from the university than we did.

They will be more demanding of circumstances such as working air conditioning units, efficient and effective security, dedicated lecturers, and a grace period for access to the e-learning facility, to name a few.

Toni Thorne is a young entrepreneur and World Economic Forum Global Shaper who loves global youth culture, a great debate and living in paradise. Email: Tonithorne@hotmail.com


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