Government has appointed Director?of the Commission for Pan African Affairs, Dr. Deryck Murray, as liaison officer for the Nigerian educational programme.

Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ronald Jones, announced this recently as he addressed a press conference at his ministry???s headquarters, Elsie Payne Complex, Constitution Road, St. Michael.

Noting that Government was seeking to establish educational tourism relationships with countries across the world, he said a strong interest had been shown in students from Africa, including Nigeria.

He said from this vantage point of Government???s interest, it was thought necessary, at this stage, to give a definitive position on the matter. ???That definitive position is that the Government of Barbados supports these endeavours, either through Government???s own initiatives or through the initiatives by private citizens and private businesses,??? said Minister Jones.

It was explained that Dr. Murray would basically act as a ???go-between???, liaising with the Nigerian students and the ???principal private entrepreneur??? [programme organiser Donna St Hill], to keep Government abreast of the matter, and because of his experience with the African continent, he would be able to deal with some of the cultural issues which might present themselves.

Mr. Jones continued: ???This is an additional step to ensure that the students can be in Barbados and enjoy whatever this country has to offer any person who is from another country, as well as to be satisfied that the educational product that is provided to them will meet the quality and the standard that we know the educational product at the Barbados Community College (BCC) has reached and will continue to reach.???

About 90 Nigerian students arrived in Barbados two weeks ago as part of Nigeria???s Delta State Youth Programme to undertake studies at the BCC. However, several disputes had arisen with the organiser, mainly over accommodation.

Calling what transpired as ???unfortunate???, Mr. Jones said Government was pleased things were settling down and it would continue to work with all parties involved to ensure that whatever difficulties were at the root would dissipate so that students would reach their objectives.

The Education Minister also expressed the hope that citizens would embrace the presence of the Nigerian students and wherever they could assist in facilitating their presence here they should do it without hesitation. While stating that various government agencies would work together to ensure that the students??? needs were met, Mr. Jones added that Government was also moving to put a policy in place to deal with international students coming here.

???We are doing a major study with the help of the European Union on what will be the impact financially and otherwise on the economy as a result of educational outreach programmes,??? he said.

Pointing out that he was pleased the Nigerians were currently undergoing orientation, the Minister explained that their attendance at the BCC was a ???special project??? which was outside the college???s regular timetable, and the range of studies would include hospitality management, tourism related studies and horticulture.

He acknowledged that the BCC was moving rapidly to be in a state of readiness and reminded the media that the students were originally to commence studies last September, but this had been put off.

Stressing that Government was not involved in the accommodation arrangements for the Nigerian students, Mr. Jones, however, expressed optimism that once this particular issue was settled, no further matters would arise. And, he also revealed that Government would soon be hosting a reception for the students.

Dr. Murray explained that the Commission had awaited a directive from the Government to intervene in the ongoing situation. He pointed out that its role was ???to make sure that this pioneering activity can in the immediate and long run reap the benefits for Barbados???.

Noting that there was a working group comprising several ministries and agencies across Government that were to promote and engage trade with Africa, Dr. Murray added that since 2011, the Commission had prepared an in-depth report on the possibilities of trading with Africa. Among the several areas seen as an advantage for Barbados, he stated, was education.

???So, we want to ensure that any lessons learnt, any missteps and so on are not to recur in the future. And, that we still support the Barbadian entrepreneurs at the centre of the programme, wherever the Government can,??? said the newly-appointed liaison. The video of the Minister’s press conference may be found be clicking here.

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