Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s Speech at UWI’s 50th Anniversary Closing Ceremony

admin Speeches

Professor Eudine Barriteau

Members of Cabinet

Members of the Senate, Members of Parliament and Members of the Judiciary

Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Principal and Pro-Vice-Chancellor

Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Chairman of the Campus Council

Campus Registrar, Campus Bursar, Deans and Heads of Department of the University

Chairman of the 50th Anniversary Committee and President of the UWI Seniors

Specially Invited Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

I cannot conceal the pleasure I feel at having been invited here this evening to address so distinguished an assembly. That pleasure is enhanced by the fact that the locus of this occasion is the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination. My close and direct association with Errol Barrow from 1969 when I joined the organization which he formed and led was one of the most enriching and intellectually stimulating experiences of my life. I was able to savour close-up that creative imagination which was so obviously one of his defining features. So the place chosen for this event is, to me, both appropriate and significant.

I should like of course to congratulate the Cave Hill Campus on the celebration over the last year, of its Golden Jubilee. Many men and women on both the academic and non-academic staff would have contributed to the success of the campus over the last 50 years. We remember them all this evening with profound gratitude and, in respect of those already gathered unto their fathers, we pray for the unceasing refreshment of their souls in paradise.

Ever since accepting the Principal???s kind invitation, I have had to think long and hard about what of value I could be expected to say to so distinguished a university community. Not being an academic myself, that process of thinking, I have to confess, has been a rather exacting experience. But I think that, climaxing as you are one year of celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of the Cave Hill Campus, it would not be inappropriate if I decided to speak on the subject: ???The Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies : A Need; A Reality; An Aspiration???

Why a need ?

The late Sir James Tudor, at the time known simply as the Hon. J. Cameron Tudor, Minister of Education of Barbados in 1963, in his Inaugural Dissertation at the opening of the then College of Arts and Sciences in Barbados observed, and I quote: ???the provision of higher education for a community emerging from colonialism is at once a logical necessity and a calculated risk???.???. He later explained that by calculated risk he merely meant that ???a thing, good in itself, can become useless if there is a divorce between learning and living???.

Now the islands of the Caribbean were never, in the minds of the colonisers who came to this region initially, designed for social living. They were designed for production. So from the 17th Century on, Barbados like other islands in the region was both a slave and colonial society. Slave and colonial society provided reinforcement for each other. Men, women and children were seen merely as property. All life pivoted around the production of sugar, and islands were ranked on the basis of their performance in that area. In the 18th Century, therefore, Barbados was described as the brightest jewel in the British Crown. It was not so described because of the quality of its health care or education provision, or the humanity of its laws. That status had to do with the scale and quality of its sugar production.

Slave society had no time for schools since education was not a prerequisite for the production of sugar. When emancipation came, therefore, ex-slaves were victims, in a substantial way, of a criminal deficit in the area of formal education. Around the middle of the 19th Century, about fifteen (15) years after emancipation, Lord Harris, Governor of Trinidad, in assessing the first fifteen years or so of emancipation commented with mature discernment: ???A race has been freed but no society has been formed.???

Thus, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, to appreciate where we are now, we must pay tribute to Codrington College in Barbados as the oldest tertiary institution in the English Speaking Caribbean, having provided degree courses in Classics, Mathematics, or Theology for almost two centuries. It was the only institution, credible institution, of higher learning in the region at the time of emancipation.

In the second half of the nineteenth century animated discussion centred around the Keenan Report (1869) in Trinidad which floated the idea of a university there, if Trinidad could be joined by its sister colonies, whose combined population was 1,120,000 persons of whom around 70,000 were white. That report argued that the suggested university should be headquartered either in Jamaica where there were 24,000 whites, or Barbados where there were nearly 17,000 white, or in British Honduras where there were 12,000, or Trinidad where the white population was nearly 6000. Governor Gordon of Trinidad lauded the objective of the Report, but took no further action because he thought the proposal was impracticable.

Codrington College as a potential university was also being discussed, for the reason stated by Governor Rawson of Barbados in a letter to the Secretary of State on May 9, 1870, that is, that the colonies needed an educated clergy. The prevailing view was that, without such, any educated clergy, colonial society would degenerate and the very desire for education would decline. This view highlighted the central role of the clergy in education at that time.

The difficulty of establishing university education in the region also had much to do with the inadequate infrastructure which existed for secondary education. After all it would be the graduates of the secondary education system that would be expected to sustain education at the university level. But the foundations for solid primary and secondary education had not been laid during 200 years of slavery.

It was that deficiency and others that led the Barbados Times of 28th February, 1872 to express the view, in response to Governor Rawson, that the idea of establishing a Barbadian University with Codrington College as its corner stone, although a grand conception, was sufficiently Utopian to justify a smile at the simplicity of the Governor. The Times felt that Codrington College was little known and appreciated and that fifteen or sixteen students was looked upon as a ???good house.???

The Mitchinson Report of 1875 eventually floated the idea that the College could be an affiliate of Durham University rather than the University of London. The danger of secularization which the University of London might bring had to be avoided at all costs, the Report noted.

By 1878 while Codrington College continued as a Theological Seminary, it had, wisely, seen fit to widen its offerings to include teaching for University of Durham degrees.

Encouraged by this creative solution, the slow journey towards a University for Barbados, and the Caribbean, continued. Three years after the publication of the 1945 Moyne Commission Report, which painted an unflattering picture of the state of education in the West Indies, the Caribbean appetite for university education for a much wider group of persons found concrete expression in 1948, when the University College of West Indies, an affiliate of London University was established and headquartered in Jamaica. Subsequently a campus was established in Trinidad and Tobago in 1960 and in 1963 a campus was established in Barbados.

The need for a university in the Caribbean, however that university was structured, was not just to satisfy an idle fancy. This need was linked organically to the economic and social deficits bequeathed by slavery and colonialism. As the late Nelson Mandela observed in his autobiographical work, Long Walk to Freedom (1995): ???Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farmworkers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another???. The true potential of a society will not be realised, therefore, without a solid foundation based on education.

So my next question is: what has the Cave Hill Campus been like as an institutional reality?

For many poor families in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, the prospect of university education seemed a distant dream before 1963. After that year, for sure, university education was brought within easier reach of the average person in our countries. Homes have been enlightened and households strengthened as a result of the expanded opportunities which Cave Hill has offered. The public services of this region are now better resourced than at any other time in the region???s history, thanks to the University of the West Indies; and to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, the Cave Hill Campus has contributed immeasurably in that regard. Many an individual, old and young, has been able to actualise a God-given potential through access to this campus and has set out on the path to a vertebrate life.

The expansion of Cave Hill???s programs over the years to include Law and, more recently, Medicine; to include also areas like Management and many other new areas, has done much to solidify the reputation of this great institution. Institutions like the ISER, now the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, have performed an essential role in the development of the Eastern Caribbean.
The modernization of Cave Hill???s physical facilities, and its increasing emphasis on an ever widening range of graduate offerings and on research, have done much to internationalize the image and the reputation of this campus. This has extended to the inclusion of sport, particularly our beloved cricket, as an essential part of the University???s development. As a graduate of the University of the West Indies campus at Cave Hill I am proud to be associated with this campus and to share its renown with other graduates across the region and beyond. When a regional university begins to produce that region???s leaders no other evidence is needed of that university???s or that region???s coming of age.

But not everyone had seen it that way. In the academic year 1973-1974, I was a full time student in the Faculty of Arts and General Studies. At that time, a British High Commissioner, Mr. David Roberts, was about to end his tour of duty here. He wrote a report for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, an excerpt of which is now published in a book entitled ???Parting Shots???, authored by Matthew Parris and David Bryson. I quote him in part from that report as follows:

???At the time of the Changing of the Guard, I have the honour to report that I leave Barbados much as I found it. Indeed, to judge from the history of Barbados, things do not seem to change very much here, although each generation has lamented the decaying morals and foreseen the dissolution of society through the idleness and loose living of the young. At my age, I also incline to this view. It is now the exception rather than the rule for a young and outstanding Barbadian to be educated at Oxford or Cambridge. Thus, through death, retirement or more lucrative employment, the generation of men who read Greats, Economics or Law in the U.K., acquired an affinity with our way of thinking and acceptance of our social values, and came home to govern Barbados, will pass away. They will leave government in the hands of young men educated at the University of the West Indies, from which a half-naked intelligentsia is already coming forward. The new generation have largely been instructed by university teachers who could not hold down a reputable job elsewhere. A small country which badly needs carpenters, plumbers, engineers and so forth is turning out third-rate lawyers and sociologists by the dozen: It is good flammable material for political bonfire. ??? End of quote.

Laughter, you will agree, is the most appropriate punishment for that very jaundiced judgement.

Let us reflect, however, that at the time of that assessment outstanding lecturers like Richard Allsopp, Keith Hunte, Woodville Marshall, Alvin Thompson, Anthony Phillips, Frank Alleyne, Wendell McClean, Bruce St.John, Dennis Sardinha, Charles Hollingsworth, Patrick Emmanuel and Neville Duncan, among others, were on the staff at Cave Hill.
After 50 years Cave Hill has certainly given the lie to that disrespectful and condescending assessment. It is an institution that can stand head and shoulders above many in the world of universities, despite the many challenges that it has faced. Its icons through the years now dot our landscape and have continued to serve the Caribbean and the world with distinction.

But let us be reminded, as George Lamming pointed out in his address made on February 6, 1980 to the graduating class at this same campus, that ???half a century is long and not so long???!

So, with such a distinguished record behind it, what should Cave Hill???s aspirations be now, as a University 50 years old, in times of dizzying change, locally, regionally, in the hemisphere, and globally?

That universities and the societies which they are intended to serve should be indissolubly linked is a proposition that none will want to seriously dispute.

If Western history is any guide, over time universities have always tended to reflect the emphases of the societies which they were intended to serve.
In ancient Greece, the academies took due note of the subservient role of women and slaves in the city states, focussed education on their continued exclusion and promoted the values and priorities of men and slave owners. The pre-occupation, when not with politics, was with the arts and with leisure.

After the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, Europe fell apart and disintegrated into a number of little kingdoms each dominated, as it were, by its own landlord. As Eric Williams has pointed out, in this decentralised confusion, the Roman Catholic Church, the only centralised institution, the largest landowner, ruled by a single monarch, with a unifying language – Latin ??? became the economic, social and political master. The university in those circumstances, served its society by being faithful to the doctrines of the church. Secular knowledge, therefore, was interpreted and used as an adjunct of theology. Codrington College would in time also fit into that mould.

With the advent of the Renaissance and the Reformation and, of course, the discovery of the Americas, with the advent of the Dutch, English and French Revolutions, the medieval order gave way to a new dispensation. Capitalism replaced feudalism. The landlord was replaced by the businessman. The nation state replaced the miscellany of self-sufficient units which had taken shape after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Knowledge with its emphasis on science became more secular and was no longer thought to be based on divine revelation.
The discovery of America opened up a whole new vista, a whole new world in which feudal traditions were unknown. That great revolution, the Industrial Revolution , which effected the transition from the use of muscle power to the use of machine power, and which institutionalized factory life, made a profound impact on the organization of human society.

The modern university has tended to mirror these developments in greater or lesser degree. Some wits even say that the assembly line approach of the 20th century has perhaps crept into some universities.

But the Caribbean reality turns on a peculiar set of facts which require no repetition here. A university in the West Indies, therefore, has to reflect the legitimate aspirations of a post-slavery and post-colonial people. It cannot afford the luxury of trying to ape or mimic the priorities of universities which are responding to a wholly different set of historical and developmental imperatives.

I??concede that the task of the university can be made that much easier if governments are clearer about what kind of societies they want to create. But the task of crafting a regional vision is not one from which the university can afford to divorce itself. While not hostaging itself to governments of whatever stripe, the university must see itself as a partner in the process of development of the wider community which it is supposed to serve.

At the opening of the College of Arts and Sciences in 1963, the then Vice Chancellor of the University, Dr. Philip Sherlock, stated that there were just over 2,000 students in the University of the West Indies: 118 in Barbados; 500 at the St. Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago, and 1400 plus at the Mona Campus in Jamaica. It was his view that the inescapable role of the University of the West Indies was to contribute to the West Indies not only men and women who are trained according to the highest standards, but men and women who dedicate themselves to the building of West Indian society. This was the vision when the university was established.

Sixteen years later, in 1979 Sir Alister McIntyre repeated the same thought, in different words. On the occasion of the naming of a campus building in his honour, he said: ???This university should serve as a guide and lamp post for the development of a Caribbean identity. To see so many distinguished Caribbean names recognised on so many buildings and other facilities provides a sober reminder to all of us that we are not here simply for personal accomplishment, whether by way of the acquisition of degrees, the publication of learned papers, or the engagement in highly intellectual discourse??? We are here also to establish, reinforce and extend our own personages as members of a Caribbean Community, not bound by any legislative parchment or any decision of a council, assembly or other inter-government organ, but bound firmly together by our own understanding of from whence we have come,??? what we are experiencing here and the uniqueness of that experience, and ???. what we owe to this generation ..and invariably to the region???.

I have noted that much is made nowadays of the need to produce graduates who can satisfy the demands of employers in the public and private sectors. That is what I have always thought a university should be doing. What I find troubling from time to time, though, is when the end result is a graduate so narrow in focus, that he or she gets lost in his or her ???professionalism??? and, taken beyond the immediate perimeters of the specific area of study, that graduate can reflect too little of the roundedness that graduate status should imply.

Edward Said, that redoubtable thinker, had something to say about this in his essay, Representations of an Intellectual. I quote: ??? By professionalism I mean thinking of your work as an intellectual as something you do for a living, between the hours of nine and five with one eye on the clock, and another cocked at what is considered to be proper, professional behaviour – not rocking the boat, not straying outside the accepted paradigms or limits, making yourself marketable and above all presentable, hence uncontroversial and unpolitical and ???objective??? .???

And then Frank Furedi, not to be outdone, in his work entitled Where Have All The Intellectuals Gone ? (subtitled Confronting 21st Century Philistinism) states that : ???Once intellectual work becomes professionalised, it ceases to possess its independence and potential for asking difficult questions of society. Instead it acquires a managerial or technocratic function.???

The possession of a university degree should begin to mean that its holder is equipped to meet a wide range of intellectual challenges because his mind has been developed to a level that admits of a certain flexibility based on a firm grasp of logic, of sequence and of a basic ethics. Yes, the university will produce professionals and academics. But it must also concentrate on producing intellectuals.
As I see it, the true intellectual is a man or woman who believes in the generation and elucidation of ideas. He or she has to earn a living and must, of necessity, live off of what he or she knows. But he or she must live also for what he or she knows.

Developing countries like those in the Caribbean cannot afford to lose the battle in the realm of ideas. We may not win in areas like oil, commodities and military hardware. But we can be equals or, better still, superiors, in the realm of ideas. John Maynard Keynes was right when he said that ???The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist???.. It is ideas , not vested interests, which are for good or evil.???

The Caribbean region has already demonstrated to the world its stature in this area by the fine examples of Arthur Lewis, Derek Walcott and V.S Naipaul, Nobel Prize winners all, and a host of other distinguished thinkers in this region.

The world of 2013 in which the University must now operate is vastly different from the world in 1963 when this University was established.
Socially, we are experiencing a situation in the region where increasing numbers of our people, across classes, face mounting frustration, hopelessness and insecurity as more and more they seem to be losing control over the forces that determine the quality and the content of their lives. In this state of affairs, as a recent NISE survey in Barbados has shown, upwards of 30% of employees is increasingly disengaged at work, whether in the public or private sector. Both learning and faith , in some instances, seem divorced from the demanding challenges of daily living.

Economically, we have continued to pursue a development paradigm which presupposes the exclusion of a sizeable percentage of the population from participation in mainstream economic life, and, therefore, from enjoyment of the full benefits of our economic endeavors.

Politically, the two institutions , the mass political party and the trade union, begotten, as it were , by the disturbances of the 1930???s and whose earliest incarnation was in the form of movements for social , economic and political change, have, daily, to guard against the possibility of being reduced to mere well – intentioned bureaucracies.

Educationally, the questions Who? What? Where? When? How? Whether? continue to enjoy too much preeminence over the question Why?, in both our curricular and in our methodological approaches. In the result, those who have passed through this system are not sufficiently equipped to question intelligently continued loyalty to inherited orthodoxies. Further, our system still promotes competition, which always produces more losers than winners, rather than cooperation, which seeks to develop and harvest individual strengths.

Unfortunately, the perception is that the society has stopped feeling the university and certainly is not hearing it often enough on these critical issues.

It is the university which should be helping the population to perceive some kind of structure behind the complexity and seeming confusion of life today; some kind of ordered drama behind the daily whirl of events.If the supposedly leading thinkers in our society are not doing this, I ask, who should?

If Barbados and the Caribbean ever needed clarifying voices it is now. My sense is that these voices are either in too short supply at the university or are certainly too muted. We live in a multidimensional world, and we have to manage even the things that we cannot see by effectively managing the things that we can see.

As I come to the end of this address, I can think of no more fitting way to conclude it than to draw inspiration from the words of the most eminent of our founding fathers, the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow, in his graduation address in 1968. That address has lost none of its relevance, perspicacity or freshness 45 years after it was delivered, and should be required reading in its entirety for every student and teacher at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, and indeed for the public at large.

Let me quote it: ???When, therefore, we speak of bringing the University to the People, we should not only mean that more and more people should directly as students enjoy its facilities, we should also intend that citizens of the region should be encouraged to regard the University as their most important asset. We cannot rightly urge them to sacrifice for it merely by pointing with pride to its facilities or to its achievements or even to its international standing. They must feel for the university the same concern which the fortunes of sugar, tourism, industrial development and national security engender. They must be helped to know, as a settled conviction, that the efficient growth of this University is almost their only path to prosperity???.

In words better used by the Speaker of the Honourable House of Assembly, I am moved to say: Methinks the Ayes have it!

I thank you.

Author: Prime Minister's Office
Share this post with a friend...Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn