As this country continues to mark 50 years of universal, free, public education, students are being urged to uphold the proud legacy which arose out of an edict given in the early 1960s.
Minister of Education and Human Resource Development; Ronald Jones, made this call today as he addressed the start of Education Month 2012 during a church service at Sanctuary Empowerment Centre, Country Road, St. Michael.
Describing the social framework that existed in the 60s, he told students: “When we speak of the introduction of universally free education in Barbados, the motivation for this came from the need to change the social strata of our society.”
He recounted that during 1960/61, the country became engaged in the debate as to what was needed to cause rapid development and said what emerged was a promise and pledge to have universally free education in Barbados. “So, on January 4, 1962 as
persons went back into school there was the edict: ???There will be no longer the collection of any school fees in Barbados’,” Mr. Jones said, adding that though considered a simple phrase it was profound in its achievement.??
He continued: “We look back now and see where our country has come in 50 years… We have been able, through education, to transform a nation… by good quality teachers and by the provision of good quality training for those teachers, instructors and trainers in our midst; by the quality of leadership in our schools, [and] by the work of administrators across our ministries and in our various tertiary level institutions.”
He noted too that political leaders, over time, had recognised that a country [Barbados] with scarce natural resources needed to place investment in its people and he told students this was critical “for what we wanted to see Barbados become”.
The Minister called on those gathered not to forget the legacy:?? “The passion was ignited at the basic foundation of our society for learning and poor people in our villages and communities spoke into our ears: Get up; Do Your work and Get to school.”
He stressed: “Let us remember then how it was, the hunger for learning to transform a nation so that we can continue to work to continue to transform the nation through the work of teachers and the study of students. It is now your turn to take the torch. Through generations of people we have passed the torch on to the young ones and that flame must be kept burning brightly. ??It is in your hands; it passes from the teacher to you every single day.
“It passes through the leadership of our principals, senior teachers and Year Heads every day; subject coordinators; information technology coordinators to you each and every day.?? How are you going to keep that torch burning in your own soul? Are you going to keep that torch by hiding it in the bushel? You want to keep that torch burning in your hearts and in your mind, so, therefore be productive.”
Students also heard that 20 per cent of the country’s budget was spent on education a year and this was funded by the taxpayers. Calling on them to be responsible and use the educational opportunities given, Mr. Jones said:?? “Your responsibility must be seen in your obedience to the rules of your schools… your commitment to studies; in your preservation and care of equipment provided for your ease and comfort of learning; respect for your peers, your teachers and all those other deserving human beings.”
Teachers and other leaders were also given some advice with the Minister saying:???? “We have to prepare young minds and young hearts not just for work in our communities and in our countries…but to prepare them to be decent citizens capturing all the morals and values which would keep our country going and our society strong which will make our economy better.”