Submitted by Fair Play
I believe our plan to ask students to contribute a small part of the cost of their tertiary education at UWI has more public support than we think. Talking to people from all walks of life, and ironically, particularly among low income earners, there is much support. Their comments run the gamut from: it makes sense; the country cannot afford 100% funding at this time; other countries that are better off than us don’t do it; and, it should have been implemented long ago; to, they have an attitude after graduation – forgetting who paid for their education; and they do not give back to society, especially the doctors and lawyers who charge the same benefactors (the taxpayers) very exorbitant fees.
Barbadians aren’t stupid.
However, over and above those sentiments, generally, most persons I spoke to agree with the percentage the students will have to pay. Even some, like Dr. Leonard Shorey, (a perennial BLP apologist) believe it should have been higher and was long in coming. And, the Sunday Sun poll surprisingly gave majority support to the Gov’t.
Conversely, the opposing political viewpoints and arguments come across as insincere and very specious. We, however, should undertake a sensitization and public relations exercise, post-haste. The CBC interview with Ronald Jones last Sunday night on The People’s Business was very enlightening – it was compelling television. He was quite clear and convincing as he persuasively elucidated government’s position. The only aspect of his explanation that had me a bit bothered, was when he said government was willing to listen to and entertain more suggestions and ideas, as the decision wasn’t cast in stone. All well and good. But, I hope some people don’t take that to mean that we are back-peddling or having second thoughts; or worse still, that the measure wasn’t well thought out and there is indecision. There should be no procrastination or vacillating. Having gone to Parliament and thoroughly debated the measure, it must be a fait accompli now. I think I understand the Minister’s comments though. His was offering a sympathetic ear.
After that interview, we must put a sustained PR campaign in place to sell and further buttress the policy, while garnering greater agreement and public acceptance. Bear in mind that the Opposition will not be letting-up on this one, and will be attacking the policy on all fronts. They have started, believing that they have smelled blood and sense an opening to mortally attack us. They think that going back on any aspect of free tertiary education is our Achilles’ Heel. But, it is backfiring on them. So far, general public opinion is with us; but we have to change that during the coming weeks and months to attain overwhelming public acceptance. We can and must do it.