UWI Discrimination: Why no Hindu or Islamic BA Theology degree?

Submitted by By Dr. Kumar Mahabir

It sits innocently in the Undergraduate Humanities Programmes list, alphabetically bookended by Theatre Arts and Visual Arts. Yet the University of the West Indies (UWI) Bachelor of Arts BA Theology degree is a jarring testament to the religious and ethnic discrimination that still exists in the highest institution of education in our nation, paying lip service to diversity, equity and inclusion as core values.

Taught every year at the St Augustine (Trinidad) campus by members of the Seminary of St John Vianney and the Ugandan Martyrs since 1970, UWI’s Theology degree is unapologetically Christian and Catholic in content. The syllabus comprises courses in Biblical and Pastoral Studies, History of the Christian Church in the Caribbean, Perspectives in Christology, and Principles of Christian Ethics.

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Education is No Sport

Submitted by Paula Sealy

This committee has been given a mandate for the next six months to work assiduously to bring the policy on persons with disabilities so that we can also approve the legislation. We have a draft legislation now that over the next six months it is to be fine-tuned to get the legislation right,” Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Kirk Humphrey said.

This was a public statement of the direction of the committee to investigate the needs of the disabled community. What direction guides the Education Reform Unit headed by Dr. Idamay Denny?

What is the mandate of the unit?

Is there a timeline for a green paper to be prepared for discussion with the general public?

The committee led by MP Hinkson has objectives that were already shared with the public. It is almost three years since we were told the 11+ will be abolished as part of the education reform.

What has the Ministry of Education been doing since then?

Making sport?

Where is the Leadership?

Submitted by Paula Sealy

General elections were held on 19 January. Today is 19 May. It has been over 100 days since the elections. Up to now the secondary schools have no boards of management. This is affecting the schools.  

So when will the boards be put in place? Will the Minister of Education explain what is going to the public? Does she or the government understand the problems this is contributing to? Is the delay because of education reform? 

Answers are needed not more empty talk. 

Is the 11+ the only thing the ministry is looking at? How much longer will the 11+ be used?

Our Children – Knowing Cents from Sense

Submitted by William Skinner

Recently in a submission to BU, I mentioned a story appearing in the local press about a six-year-old citizen, selling her first piece of art. In the interview, her mother said that she was conflicted, in exposing her daughter to such activity at a very tender age. She did not want to send the message that everything is about money. However, she concluded that her daughter’s passion, came at the cost of some expensive art supplies. In the end common “cents’ became the reality.

We stupidly believed that the world would have waited on us, to embrace the emerging technologies. While we waited, teens in other countries, were already becoming millionaires by creating and selling computer programs /apps. We wasted almost twenty years boasting about “punching above our weight”.

Our children were therefore denied the excellent opportunity of mastering basic computer skills, and many have left school lacking the competence to turn on a computer. Edutech was a monumental failure. And to this day, the architect of that calamity has never explained the disaster.

Our children must compete in the global market. Countries with limited resources must have educational institutions that impart knowledge and skills to navigate their local, regional, and international challenges.

An honest assessment of successive administrations reveals their innate ability to prefer presentation over content. They always fail to deal with the issues and challenges we need to face within our educational system. The latest fallacy being promoted, suggests there are no “good or bad” schools. We should ask our children what they think about that! We are trying to convince ourselves that the system is not elitist. We are still contending that each child, who sits the Common Entrance, has an equal chance of “passing” a “fair “examination.

Many citizens are asking what will replace the Common Entrance. Almost two years have passed since the current administration informed the public that it would be abolished.

We continue to blame the parents and those teachers, whom we think are not the best ,for the failures of the system.

Our children are not responsible for poor parenting or teaching. No child chooses his or her parents. Our children should have at least one daily nutritious meal and be exposed to the best educational institutions. We must ensure that they are provided with all the means to enjoy a happy, healthy childhood. They must be protected from all forms of abuse.

Very urgent and comprehensive legislation is needed to give our children protection. For example, adults who are accused of abusing children, must be removed from the home immediately; children under the age of fourteen should not be required to give evidence at trials where they have accused adults of abuse. Once the state determines there is a case, there should be no need for the child to be a witness and be cross examined. The accused is at the mercy of the court and his innocence or guilt will be determined by a jury.

Those found guilty should be placed on a public record as molesters and be not permitted to reside or frequent anywhere where children gather this will include play parks, schools, and other places. There should be a minimum sentence of twenty-five years for anybody who rapes a child. Penetration could be any object.

As a nation, we must protect and develop our only natural resource. We are all parents and guardians of all our children.

As we embark on the new Republic journey, we need to ask ourselves: how seven of ten children in the nation’s care, from the Girls Industrial School, became patients, at the psychiatric hospital on suicide watch. The next question is are we collectively doing right by our nation’s children.

The alert parent mentioned at the beginning of this piece, knew, the difference between reality and illusion. Our children have all the inner resources to make the future of our country greater and like that parent, we need to always know the difference between cents and common sense

Where Education Ends Good Sense Should Begin

Submitted by Paula Sealy


What mental health services will be provided after you have allowed Lower 6 (ages 16-17) CAPE 2022 students to be placed under severe anguish, unfathomable physical distress and untold mental strain?

In one country, secondary school students have spent approximately seven weeks at school for face-to-face instruction in preparation for their CAPE Unit 1 exams scheduled for next month. 

For those who do not know, Unit 2 of CAPE is completed in Upper 6 (17-18) as CAPE consists of two units over two years with two separate syllabuses and two separate exams. CSEC is a 2-year course of study which starts in 4th Form (14-15) and sees exams in 5th Form (15-16), by comparison. Unit 2 students had the benefit of last year’s experience when their Unit 1 exams began in June. That year’s experience still pushed many of their peers to venture off to technical and vocational studies, community college, UWI or the world of work instead of completing Unit 2.

Across the region, today, CAPE and CSEC candidates are in need of more time in order to complete the syllabus and ‘digest’ the material. I am disappointed but I am not surprised that good sense hasn’t prevailed. The Beckles stewardship model and the Wesleyan leadership style used by CXC do not endorse good sense.

Mses. Williams of Jamaica, McConney of Barbados, Gadsby-Dolly of Trinidad and Tobago, and Manickchand of Guyana, your countries are the major sources of candidates for CXC exams. Ladies, as Ministers of Education you need to challenge COHSOD to address the concerns of the students and teachers of the Caribbean where CXC is concerned with dutiful assiduity. If that fails, it is time enough to step out of your insular comfort zones and represent the children by all necessary and sufficient means.

Each one of the children matters and each one is not deaf or blind. Where education ends good sense should begin, not CXC exams.

May God help the Caribbean and its children. 

BU Covid Dash – Back to School II

The blogmaster is pleased to hear more urgent discussions taking place about agreeing to protocols and logistics to have face to face classes resume between stakeholders. From anecdotal chatter the majority of parents seem supportive of the effort to restart. The one group offering some resistance seems to be the teacher’s unions.

A word to the teachers. This is a risk reward kind of situation. This is a cost benefit kind of situation. There will be a price to pay if the current way of teaching our children continues. There will be a social cost. If the class size is to large, split is and teach each group on alternate days BUT do some rh thing. The virus from all accounts will be with us for the foreseeable future, let us agree (without the long talk) how the physical plant will be changed to mitigate the risks at play.

Time to get on with it!

Education Reform: Jettisoning 11+

Submitted by William Skinner

Those who support the abolition of the Common Entrance Examination (CEE), will certainly welcome the current administration’s intention to move our children, out of what is really a socioeconomic and educational gas chamber. We have not seen a determined, enlightening, or progressive effort to reform the education system, from any administration, since 1962, when free education was introduced.

Those who believe that education reform is like purchasing garbage trucks or buses are deluding themselves. It should not be the plaything of political grandstanding and excessive nonproductive press conferences. Our last Minister of Education has bequeathed nothing but presentation without content.

While this writer wholeheartedly supports progressive continuous assessment as the best method, for our children to make the transition from primary to secondary school, the awareness, that it is not the only one is constant. Any reform of the system that does not include how we are going to harness our human resources, for the next half century, will be a complete waste of time.

The current administration is failing quite miserably, in its bungling efforts, to get our children back in the classroom, after their long absence caused by the pandemic. It is difficult to have confidence in its ability to radically reform the education system, if it cannot even get this existing problem solved or at least reduced.

The frustration has now reached our incredibly young children, some under the age of five, who joined their parents in a march of disgust against being imprisoned in their homes. Amazingly, we can find ways to expose the country to COVID, via a general election, to solve a bogus division. We can create senseless super spreaders, but we cannot develop a system to rescue our children from psychological trauma because of boredom and stress due to extremely limited or no social interaction.

Our children: barely out of pampers; whose pee has not yet begun to foam; and who are still to encounter a training bra, took to the streets to remind those who have undertaken the appearance of adults, that the nonsense must cease.

As we embark, on the quest to abolish the dreaded CEE, and reform our education system, we must collectively do better because our young people, who have just abandoned their cribs are not going to stand for “any foolishness.” The message is more than clear.

BU Covid Dash – Back to School Time

If we are to judge from recent events like cricket at Kensington Oval and political campaigning – supported by utterances from the Chief Medial Officer and Minister Kerri Symmonds –  the government is about to switch to a getting ‘back to normal’ mode. We must do all that is possible to address educating our children. Crop Over will fall in line.

Attached are charts for the week ending 4th Feb 2022.  The major takeaways may be that the R0 chart is continuing to trend downward, as is the daily cases chart and that the Death’s and total isolations charts are continuing to trend upwards.  These changes need to be monitored over the next couple of weeks to determine any changing or continuing trends. I’ve reposted the positivity chart as there seems to have been some recent interest in that statistic – Source: Lyall Small (Click image to see BU COVID 19 Updates page)

BU Covid Dash – Remember the Children

The Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2  started in late 2019 and quickly spread to become a pandemic the following year. Based on the current state of global response to the pandemic, there is anticipation SARS-CoV-2 will join the family of coronaviruses to become endemic- like the flu. We will have to finalize an effective method to coexist and carryon with our lifes to protect our economic and mental well being.

Earlier this month newly appointed Chief Education Officer Dr. Ramona Archer-Bradshaw indicated the ministry is working on a roadmap to ensure at least 70% of students and teachers are fully vaccinated or a system of robust testing as a prerequisite for class room teaching. She further reported about 9,000 of the 21,000 student population were vaccinated, however the vaccination status of teachers is unknown.

The concern of the blogmaster is about how online teaching is negatively effecting our children, especially at primary level. What is the fallout for children who are ‘wired’ to learn with different learning styles i.e. visual, auditory, kinetic to optimally learn. What will be the impact to the quality of a future Barbados society?

The challenge for education authorities is to efficiently weigh the risk of online instruction compared to class room learning of our children during the pandemic and implement relevant plans to mitigate fallout. There is no perfect plan but we must execute the best plans given what is at stake. The speed at which the Covid 19 vaccine is being administered and the challenges caused by the surge of infections  (see current Covid 19 graphs attached) suggest the current approach of blended learning will have to be the preferred approach into 2022.

The predicament we find ourselves throws out a view to which the blogmaster is sympathetic- should the country suspend the requirement of the 11+ exam,  one example- until we implement an effective remedial syllabus to cater to children being left behind? We must not forget that pre Covid 19 government agreed to address fault lines in the education system.

Having sunk billions in the education system since 1966, we must be capable of having an informed and dispassionate discourse regarding next steps to deliver a quality education to the youth cohort AND importantly EXECUTE the plan to address concerns.

Attached are graphs for week ending 22nd October 2021. The increases are very alarming but it should be noted that the last 2 days’ increases were predominantly from 2 large shut-in clusters in the Black Rock area. Nevertheless, it appears that we are now at the eye-wall of the outbreak. The contact and trace authorities appear to be on the ball. We all should do our individual best to protect each other and thereby quicken eventual control of the epidemic – Lyall Small

The Phartford Files: BCC Fast Becoming a Basket Case

Submitted by Ironside

One scholarship! That is all the Barbados Community College (BCC) was able to garner in 2019!

Not surprising, given the recent revelations regarding the ongoing scandalous performance of BCC nursing students in the regional nursing examinations.

Well, the Mia Mottely administration has solved the nursing problem: Barbados will be importing nurses and nursing is to be removed from the curriculum of the BCC and (possibly) given to Ross University.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The problems at the Eyrie institution get more interesting by the semester:

1. Pass mark to 45%; a two stage drop from 60% through 50% over the last ten years or so. In the same time UWI raised its from 45%.

2. Recent implementation of supplemental exams for every student for every major subject across the board – no questions asked; no restrictions – in stark contrast to what obtains at comparable colleges across the world.

3. An arrogant Student Affairs Department – which falls under the ambit of the Registrar – that stuffs upwards of 45 students in rooms designed to comfortably seat 30 students despite specifications from teaching department heads. Every day, some students in some divisions report having to “borrow” furniture from adjacent rooms with the attendant problems of delays in the start of classes and possible injury to fellow students along the narrow corridors.

4. Increasing breakdown in discipline. Tutors complain of the blatant cursing in the closely confined spaces of the college premises and rudeness to tutors with no response from the administration. Some of those confined spaces are just opposite to the offices of the Registrar who has not lifted a finger to check the uncouth behaviour. No surprise there, since it appears that, according to some staff members, the Registrar – Mr. Roger Worrell – can’t decide whether he is “student friendly” or “student centered”. Whichever it is, it does not come with strong discipline! It is simply his sick idea of “loving students”.

5. The treatment of students found guilty of cheating is an eye opener. Under the current directives, if a student is caught cheating in an exam he or she is to have the examination booklet removed and given another one, right there in the examination room, ostensibly pending a later investigation. Such investigations invariably never happen and guilty students continue on the campus with impunity.

6. Failure to get national accreditation even after having begun the process for it more than three years ago and after the appointment of a so-called consultant to manage the process.

7. Increasingly blatant corruption in the institution from successive Boards of Management downwards. The recent appointment of a new principal to the BCC is a case in point and worthy of separate discussion.

The appointee, Mrs. Annette Alleyne, is hitherto an unknown to most BCC staff. Translated, that the means that nobody seems to have ever heard her express an opinion- controversial or otherwise- on anything of educational importance in the institution! In other words, nobody knows if she gives a good Bajan phart about the BCC!

So how does she become principal? Better still, why would she even apply for the job given her lack of management experience and apparent disinterest in the job? And why was she given the job by the Professor Velma Newton led Board of Management when it appears that there were at least three other candidates – with doctoral degrees, demonstrated interest and/or experience and/or expertise – who apparently applied for the job?

How does the Project Director of the IMPACT Justice Project justify brushing aside three other highly qualified candidates who have demonstrated commitment to the BCC for so many years in favour of an obviously shallow candidate, if one can judge by the interviews Mrs. Allyene has given so far?

If one had any suspicions about the new Principal’s appointment, those were confirmed by her no-show on the relatively recent Peter Thorne moderated People’s Business discussion on nursing in Barbados. Mr. Thorne was at pains to point out that they had sent repeated requests to the BCC administration for participation in discussion on the matter.

But perhaps we are being unfair. Maybe the new Principal was under gag order by the Board? That would not be surprising because tight control of communication seems to be the working philosophy of the Mia Mottley administration.

In her “historic” and histrionic meeting with BCC staff a year ago, Professor Velma Newton, short of issuing a threat, left no doubt about how she feels about staff, at any level communicating, with the public without her “blessing”.

That should be very alarming to lovers of freedom and justice, since no such strictures are placed on members of staff of the UWI where the BCC chairperson is still an employee and as noted above, Director of the IMPACT Justice Project. For example, Jeff Cumberbatch, a UWI law lecturer, is a regular contributor to this blog.

What shall we say to these things: “All educators are equal but some are more equal than others?”

There is a lot more than meets the eye here and Phartford Files will have more to say on this later. For the time being, these are a few of takeaways from this BCC case worth noting:

1. The BCC is fast becoming a basket case (“a person or thing regarded as useless or unable to cope”). The cause is deeply rooted in the failure of successive political administrations to appoint competent, professional managers rather than yard fowls and people they can easily control. Both of the so-called main parties are guilty of this practice. This BLP administration has taken it to a new level.

2. Corruption is now spreading like a cancer even across our top educational institutions (it is an open secret that the former SJPP is a DLP political pork barrel).

3. Integrity legislation is a smoke screen and a soother for the masses; it is will not stop this kind of corruption.

4. The current politico-governance system in this country is morally bankrupt at the core and needs to be permanently dismantled.

In the meantime, while we wait patiently for the next election, the powers that be are reminded that the Barbados Community College is funded by our taxes and is therefore, a public institution. The time for a response regarding the BCC is past due!

Time to Think Clear and Straight Caswell

Submitted by DAVID  COMISSIONG, President, Clement Payne Movement
IF  EVER  THERE  WAS  A  TIME for clear and principled thinking in Barbados, that time is now!

I would therefore like to publicly say to newly appointed Senator Caswell Franklyn and to all other Barbadians who – like him – may believe that governmental policies to restore free tertiary education at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and to increase non-contributory old age pensions are signs of largess emanating from a governmental administration that is acting as if it is “awash with cash”, that they are barking up the wrong tree !
The reality is that the fundamental economic and social development strategy of Barbados is to base our national developmental efforts firmly on the foundation of a well educated and trained population.
The basic concept is that our nation’s economic development will arise from our people’s educational and cultural development, and vice versa. Thus, these two spheres of development (our nation’s economic development and our people’s educational/cultural development) are symbiotic and must mutually propel each other.
It is therefore critical to our country’s economic welfare that we ensure that a sizable proportion of our young people be exposed to tertiary level education!
When the former Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration first imposed the payment of tuition fees on Barbadians attending the UWI, they assured the country that this change of educational policy would NOT result in any fall off of Barbadians accessing university level education.
Well, they were wrong! And immediately after the change of policy well over 4,000 Barbadians dropped out of the UWI system! (The university administration was subsequently able to engage in measures that reduced the number to some 3,200.)
A country like Barbados simply cannot afford to maintain an educational policy that — on an ongoing basis– is causing some 3,200 citizens to be deprived of university level education!
Restoring free university education for Barbadians at the UWI is therefore not a sign of irresponsible largess, but rather is a pressing economic developmental necessity for our nation.
Now on to this matter of increasing the amount of the paltry non-contributory pensions that are currently given to the most vulnerable segment of the Barbadian population.
We Barbadians must insist on Barbados always being a “civilized and humane” society.  And in a civilized and humane society, when economic conditions become difficult, the poor and destitute are NOT abandoned! In fact, it is precisely in such difficult times that a Government must show its true worth as the principal defender of the “general welfare” of the people.
In the final analysis, governance is all about determining priorities, and for sure, the welfare of the most destitute and vulnerable of our old age pensioners  must be deemed a priority.
I would like to conclude by advising my friend, Senator Caswell Franklyn, to resist the temptation to try to profit at the expense of his fellow trade union leaders in the NUPW and the BWU.
The fact of the matter is that it was not that the leadership of the NUPW and the BWU “refused to cooperate with the last government”, but that the last government – the Freundel Stuart administration – refused to cooperate with the trade unions and indeed, with the entire working class!