The beginning of the first academic year in which Barbadian citizens have been asked to shoulder the burden of paying tuition fees at the University of the West Indies (UWI) has already begun to bring home the negative impact of the policy upon the poor and the university itself.
The first indicators of the decline in UWI enrolment suggest clearly that both the poor and the UWI will suffer a heavy blow and that the Government, in its unidimensional genuflection to International Monetary Fund anti-social, democratic social policy, had not given sufficient thought to the full social consequence of the reversal of Errol Barrow’s free education policy.
Had it not been witnessed, it would have been difficult to believe that entire programmes such as linguistics, history and French would have recorded total acceptance of offers in the first year as low as six, and four, and the total for the Faculty of Humanities a paltry 90 and the Faculty of Social Sciences about 600. Acceptance of offers, not actual registration!
Given the confusion over bursaries, actual registration will be lower.
A university without history, French, languages, philosophy and political science exists as such in name only. Clearly, if the Government’s tertiary education policy is not reversed or modified, the Cave Hill Campus will be reduced to a pale shadow of what a university is supposed to be.
The deeper story behind these sharp declines in the Faculties of Humanities and Social Sciences is a heartbreaking tale of abandonment of the Barbadian poor, since these declines are negligible in the Faculties of Law and Medical Sciences, where the more well-off can afford to pay and where the investment risks are lower.
Indeed, the anecdotal evidence of the class cleavage was revealed clearly at the anaemic queue before the cashier window at Cave Hill. Gone were the long lines of bussed students overflowing outwards through the entrance door.
Instead, a select few of the fortunate students accompanied by cheque-signing parents or self-driven in bulging SUVs was the new reality.
The emptiness of the slogan about Barbados being a society and not just an economy, which was hidden from the wise and the prudent, is now revealed to the babes and the suckling, given that both society and economy are being pushed downwards.
The incidents of crime and gun-related homicides perpetrated by young males, which the Minister of Education felt compelled to address last week, are likely to increase, as more of the young men who would have been occupied with university study are now thrown onto the blocks for a free education of an entirely different sort.
Those secretly resentful of UWI may gloat, but rest assured the chickens are coming home to roost.
Despite the economic urgency, a progressive government would have felt compelled to explore other alternatives.
The poor and powerless were abandoned far too easily.
—Courtesy Barbados Nation