FROM LEFT: Professor V Eudine Barriteau, Pro Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill; Akilah Jordan-Watson, First Year Student of the Faculty of Science and Technology at UWI and recipient of the Optimist International Scholarship; Senator, Dr. Carol Jacobs; Merlene Hercules, Secretary/Treasurer, Optimist International; and Dr. Colin Depradine, Dean, Faculty of Science & Technology, at yesterday’s Optimist International Prize Presentation Ceremony.

CRISIS LOOMING?

“We appeal to NGOs and the private sector to help finance higher education for our students because the challenges of funding higher education has become quite acute, and in essence a crisis may well be looming.”

This was the dire assessment made by Professor Eudine Barriteau, Pro Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, while speaking yesterday at the UWI, Cave Hill Campus Optimist International Prize Presentation Ceremony.

The Principal elaborated, “We have taken higher education for granted and I would have not been able to have a University education if at the time we had to pay, because my mother would not be able to afford it. When I think about all the possibilities and opportunities that I have had personally, I know it is that first degree at the Cave Hill Campus that enabled me to do that. Therefore, as principal, as an individual, as a woman, I am committed to ensuring there are opportunities for other young people out there.”

“I want to appeal to our leaders, parliamentary, public sector, private sector and NGOs to continue to invest in the young people of Barbados and the region to ensure that they have the opportunities and that they can take themselves further and the countries in the process. I am really worried that if the trend continues that for higher education only the elite will be able to afford it. As we know in Barbados the economy is tight, people are trying and doing their best, but parents often do their best but sometimes there is a choice between one child or the other or even none. The scholarships really help and we want to thank groups such as the Optimist International and we encourage others to do so.”

According to her, “Cave Hill Campus is doing its own bit to help students in need of financial assistance but we can only do so much given our own financial circumstances. I don’t dwell on our debt, but our debt is significant and we do have a debt that is straggling us... But we need help that we can offer our students more grants and scholarships and other activities to facilitate their development, for example the crisis in Dominica we have put in place a number of measures to assist our Dominican students, we have made arrangements to provide support with tuition and we are thinking what to do for them as they can’t go home for Christmas.”

Professor Barriteau indicated, “The government has been committed to help people in the lower economic bracket to get higher education through a higher education grant, there is currently a threshold of 25 thousand, but this is not a lot of money in Barbados when you think about the high cost of living. I wrote to the Government and asked them to raise the ceiling of the grant to 35 thousand and I’m waiting to get that response, because I really think if it moves more persons would be eligible. Again, we are thankful for the students that have benefited from that grant, but we want that threshold to move that more students can qualify for that assistance. We would also like to see some of the measures to qualify be adjusted that the process is made easier.” (NB)

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