Barbadians may soon be able to access scholarships to Cuba to study areas other than medicine.
This follows a call from Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ronald Jones, to Cuban Ambassador to Barbados, Francisco Fern??ndez Pe??a, for his country to consider other subjects.
The two met recently at the Elsie Payne Complex, where they discussed areas of further cooperation towards deepening a diplomatic relationship that began in 1972.
Lauding the assistance given by Cuba in the areas of education, health and sports, Mr. Jones said Barbados had always had ???very good relations??? with that country, not only bilaterally, but within the context of organisations, of which they are both members.
However, he pointed to critical issues responsible for fewer numbers of Barbadian students taking up medical scholarships in Cuba.
He noted, among these, the fact that the per capita ratio of doctors to patients was ???declining quite substantially???, to the point where some medical students, coming out of universities, could not be absorbed into a residency programme here, and this was creating some concerns.
To this end, Minister Jones said there were some areas of need, beyond medicine, which Barbados desired as part of the scholarship offers.
He listed these as studies related to the restoration of historic buildings; the Fine Arts, Hygiene and Epidemiology, Medical Imaging and Radiation Physics, Health Rehabilitation, Health Information Systems, Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation, Sports Science, Special Needs Education, Occupational Therapy, Podiatry, Prosthodontics and Optometry and Optics.
The Education Minister continued: ???We want to move to those areas where you have no issues arising at all??? areas in the arts, and dance, which would satisfy several of our current needs in the educational system.???
In accepting the suggestions, Mr. Fern??ndez urged that the necessary proposal be drafted soon to allow for the substitution of some of the medical scholarships.
He also disclosed that, in addition to scholarships, Barbados stood to benefit from two project proposals submitted to regional Heads of State, following the December 2014 CARICOM-Cuba summit.
These, he noted, were a Regional School of Art, that would be opened in Jamaica, and a centre for the Stimulation of Special Educational Needs for Children, Youth and Teenagers with Disabilities, to be operated in Guyana.
He also alluded to the possibility of another centre, being financed by his government, to lend assistance to the area of risk reduction of natural disasters that would also benefit Barbados.
???The main thing is that we are working to widen and consolidate this cooperation that has been the core of our relationship,??? the Ambassador said. He also stated that new events in the region and diplomatic relations with the United States would not change Cuba???s friendship with the Caribbean.
???It is important for us to make this clear???We will keep our policy to develop our relations on a bilateral basis and also in the multilateral and regional way,??? Ambassador Fern??ndez stressed.