November 16, 2012

If this does not represent progress, what does?

Fri, Nov 16, 2012

If Vincentians are still unsure of what achievements we can view with pride, recent developments following final-year examinations at all three campuses of the University of the West Indies, have given us solid evidence of the accomplishments of our young people. Amazingly, tiny St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with a population base of a mere 110,000, has provided the valedictorians, the most outstanding students, on all three campuses.{{more}}

It must be a source of national pride to note that Terral Mapp of Carapan village, Kevin Charles of Union Island, and Keisean Stevenson of Old Montrose, Kingstown, were chosen from the Cave Hill, St. Augustine and Mona campuses respectively. If that does not swell our noses, then little else will.

Much has been said about the much-vaunted “Education Revolution”, championed vociferously by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves. Some have attempted to punch holes in it and to deny its positive impact on our country and the young people in particular. The achievements of these fine young men, belie their negativity.

It is not only the achievements of these three. An examination of the list of Vincentians graduating from universities around the world in 2011 and 2012 gives a whopping figure of 326. More than 300 university graduates in two years? Unthinkable, a mere decade ago!

Some may ask where are the jobs for these graduates? This question gives the impression that one should not enter a tertiary institution unless there is a guaranteed job at the end, or that Government must have a job awaiting every graduate. This perspective is not reflective of the world in which we live today. Today’s world is a globalized one, where jobs and opportunities, are not just restricted to one’s country of birth. The new generations are as inclined to seek employment in Singapore as in Calgary, in Beijing as in Atlanta, in Johannesburg or Nairobi as in Delhi or Port of Spain. In fact, by virtue of many of these young people graduating from campuses in disparate places like Malaysia, Mexico, Venezuela, Taiwan and Cuba, they are already being prepared for life in an environment very different to ours.

Secondly, jobs are not the sole possession of the Government. More and more private sector firms are today turning to the skills of new graduates. That is why growth and development in our economy is so important to create the necessary spaces and job opportunities.

In addition, one must never underestimate the value of innovativeness in creating employment. Our graduates do not have to confine themselves to job-seeking, they can be entrepreneurs of their own, engaging in enterprises which will not only provide them with a rewarding livelihood, but will employ others as well. Again, here too the Government must play its part in facilitating an enabling environment.

Tertiary education goes far beyond providing jobs. There is the equipping of young people with professions, and even more importantly, the opening of young minds to new ways of thinking and problem solving. It is about enriching the quality of our human resource base; lifting our educational standards. Critically too, it deals with changing the social and economic circumstances of the families from which the graduates come, and providing better opportunities for the families they will eventually spawn.

A salient feature of the circumstances of the three valedictorians is that all of them are from humble, single-parent households; one from a Grenadine island, so neglected in the past, that it was the scene of our only post-independence rebellion. Significantly too, after all the lamentation about male under-achievement, all three are males. Yes, we still have our problems, but if this does not represent progress, what does?