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Street Vibe: Invest in your people! Why the Gov’t must find money for education

At a very early age my parents, who were unable to read and write, stressed education as they understood it to be the future. The then Prime Minister, Dr Eric Williams, reminded us that “the future of the nation is in the book bags of the children.” This was the early 1960s—and it is a statement still frequently cited.

Fast-forward to 2017 and what we have are major challenges in education where those in authority, many of whom would have benefitted from  “free education” then, seem hell-bent on frustrating others from obtaining a higher education. They evidently don’t understand the concept of “educational inflation,” where what five passes could get you years ago is barely accessible with a bachelor’s degree in today’s world.

Photo: An empty classroom.
(Courtesy alamosbasement)

This nation has lloked on—helplessly I may add—at efforts to dismantle improvements in the lives of citizens, especially as relates to obtaining a tertiary level education.

The powers-that-be have consistently demonstrated their myopic view on what is required to develop a nation. It has become abundantly clear that the ratio of stadiums to population is more important than an educated population. That all these stadiums remain under-utilised seems to be of no real concern to officialdom.

They fail to understand that a rising tide lifts all boats. They have failed, collectively, to comprehend that education is not a cost but an investment and that an investment in the population is the best investment any nation can make. And that such an investment yields the greatest returns.

What we experience afterwards, like the brain drain, is different.

That this regime has seen it fit to slam shut the GATE in the face of citizens over-50—the citizens who struggled to make ends meet a generation ago when, through no fault of their own, tertiary education was never within their reach—is further evidence of their short-sightedness.

They have failed to recognise that it is we and our fore-parents—those who struggled from sun-up to sundown—who were the ones on whose backbones this nation was built.

Photo: Students vent their feelings during the funeral procession for Basil Davis on 9 April 1970.
(Courtesy Embau Moheni/NJAC)

But when politics enters into the realm of education—in this dysfunctional two-party system where it has been long recognised that there is no fundamental difference between those dressed in red and in yellow, including the tribal discord sown by the mis-leaders of both sides—I am reminded of the proverb which says, “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.”

A friend of mine continuously reminds this nation of the Chinese proverb about planting a tree: “The best time was 20 years ago; the next best time is today.”

So today as our citizens, particularly the younger  ones, clamour for tertiary education in a world where “five passes”—like our dollar—have no value, those who have been begging to lead this nation have a moral, and social responsibility to respond to that call and find the resources to make tertiary education a reality.

Failure to do so today will mean finding the resources later on to deal with the social fall-out like the poverty, crime, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, etc.…

Education, Mr Minister of Finance  and Mr Minster of Education, is not a cost but an investment. In contrast, CEPEP and URP are costs. If funds be found for the latter two—to purchase hotels in Tobago and build a stadium in Diego Martin—then monies must be found for education.

Photo: Education Minister Anthony Garcia.
(Courtesy News.Gov.TT)

What Dr Williams said years ago was more recently reiterated in song by Jamaican dancehall bard, Richie Spice: “If education is the key, then tell me why the bigger heads a mek it so expensive fi we. Give them the key, oh, set them free…”

We were recently provided with some numbers on the cost of housing men in Remand Yard.

Educate our people now and set them free or find the money later. Show the nation that you are serious about proper governance. And save the politics and the sorry excuses about the nation not having funds.

When $125M can be found for “flood victims” even before the water recedes, funds must be found for education.

AboutRudy Chato Paul Sr

Rudy Chato Paul, Sr, is passionate about gardening, music and writing and boasts post-graduate certification in Anthropology, Criminology and Sociology. He also studied Theology, which is why he is actively seeking to make Trinidad a better place rather than waiting for divine intervention. 

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41 comments

  1. For the people who wants to talk “wastage” lets talk CLICO and DuPrey: $25Billion, or Hindu Credit Union and Harry Harrynarine…. So Miss me with the BS. Education is an Investment. If that cannot be understood, then I don’t now what is…

    • It is true there is other wastage – maybe even more urgent? – than GATE, does not justify students who take advantage of that though. They should still be made to repay as anyone else who wastes public funds.

  2. My only grouse with GATE was the decision by the Minister to not assist persons over 50 which I find to be discriminatory. I began studies at UWI as a mature student and pursued a Certificate course in Human Resource Management for 3 summers (I took a loan), BSC in Government and
    Double Minor in International Relations , Post grad diploma in International Relations , MSC in Global studies and and MPhil in Scurity Studies Incomplete) I took a loan and was fortunate to receive GATE along the way which I am grateful for. As a proud Trini I am happy to have shared in my country’s patrimony (Oil dollars) but now it has ceased, its back to the bank. The Minster decision tells me he has placed the over 50 out to pasture.Unless you are working in the public service you have a job, if not no one is hiring people over 50 unless you network or have friends and family,in business. Currently if you look at hiring practices they want 5 CXC for vacancies, (It tells me employers are unwilling to remunerate qualified people). I have been unemployed for the last 2 years when my contract as a Researcher ended at a Ministry, I have found creative ways to maintain my self, No One OWES me anything. As a single woman I have to be creative so private teaching/tutoring has paid my bills etc. The thing is as a mature woman I have a choice at my age to do as I lake and enjoy (shape yung people’s mind) Its not a million dollar, but I’m happy..In the US people as old as 70, 80 and 90 attend college, so why is T&T treating over 50 with disdain, Remember they have EXPERIENCE and qualification. I state all this to say, we are in a RECESSION , and cuts had to be made, GATE was provided when oil prices were high and now it has dropped we need to adjust. Its like a marriage for richer or poorer. Reality check GATE or the IMF? Which do you all prefer. Put country first and self in check. Its not doomsday but a time to reassess spending habits in a consumer country that is T&T

  3. I’m confused How you mean GATE was not free?, Thousands attended UWI and the government paid their fees. When I began my undergrad I had to pay almost $7,000 a term. When GATE was introduced the government paid almost $6000.00 while a student would have paid minimal fees ($1,000) . Wuld you not see that was FREE? Faculties like Engineering and Medicine was higher. Instead of $15,000. or more at the post Graduate level the government paid half, SO how that not FREE? I’m perplexed by peoples idea of what is FREE, maybe Oxford dictionary meaning of FREE needs clarity

  4. Some good arguments here, but let’s stick to the facts…GATE does not mean free education, it means Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses and is not a 100% assistance program. That said I do agree perpetual students or others wasting govt funding should be made to repay or cease to be able to access it.

  5. No one is against GATE , it is the reality of the times . Additionally the wastage and drop outs who are repaying the government. Why cant we understand when things are good, we shared in the country’s patrimony, when things are tight , why cant we readjust.

  6. So who’s against GATE? If you want to pay for my children’s education from cradle to grave, who am I to stop you. But surely you have enough primary school arithmatic to know your 25% taxes over your $72000 personal allowance isn’t paying for that or healthcare or smooth roads or fuel subsidies etc. And while it may not look like recession from NY it sure feels like it here. Even the Saudis are having to get off their asses, pay tax and work. Education remains a priority for every government, but we are in a reality here. P.S. as an employer I hire people without degrees frequently and will usually sift out career students who seek only paper and lack all applicable skill.

  7. For those who ho may have missed the point: education is not a cost. It’s an investment! 25Billion was pumped into CLICO with not a word from the masses. As a matter of fact Do-Pray is considering “taking back his company.” Harry Harrynarinie living large with not a so much as a sneeze from the masses. Someone called a heart is suing the nation…. the $34 Million from SPORTT is also living large. But people over 50 cannot get an education after busting their asses, living from payday to payday for most of their lives….

  8. The people who are against GATE funding are the some of the biggest beneficiaries of subsided gas and diesel for years, along with BWIA/CAL flights. Yet we never heard a word from them on subsidies. And FYI there is o recession in this land. The “recession” is one created by that jackass imbutt who doesn’t know the difference between a recess and a recession. he ahs stuck with his argument, endangering the entire nations’ economy, which will recover as they enter into their third year, giving them just enough time to buy back the votes. And they would come out smelling like the proverbial rose, with their “Shock syndrome” approach. Fortunately or unfortunately, the world has changed, while the dinosaurs posing as jackasses have remained unchanged .

    • Boi, where have you been hiding to be able to criticize Mr. Imbert so viciously? Oil prices are way down and all right thinking people recognize that government revenues have been reduced substantially. Only those suffering from ‘Cranial Rectal Inversion’ would think that this government is evil and hiding money from citizens. What a shame!

    • Doncito Mangoeatingking Braffito, while I am quite willing to acknowledge that I might be suffering from bouts of “Cranial Rectal Inversion” (LMAO), the grass in my yard knows that oil prices are down. That having been said, the rest of the world’s economy is doing well, even states that don’t rely on oil and gas. Hell, Guyana economy is dong well as well as Grenada with its two nutmeg tree. And may I remind you that jackass Panday ran this nation with oil at $8. We have money for stadium in Diego, hotels in Tobago, to complete tsunami shelter, Millions to complete unfinished houses, CEPEP, URP, … You mean to say from a $60B. budget we cyah find less that 1 for tertiary education in a world where even people with degrees today are under and unemployed? How do we expect those lacking in academic qualifications to survive in this environment? What about the thousands recently laid off, especially those beyond 50?

  9. GATE funds some 67,000 TT students pursuing tertiary education at accredited institutions and The UWI at a cost of $650M per year. The 2016 Budget allocation for Education was $9.7B. GATE therefore accounts for less than 7% of the Education Budget (NOT the National budget!). And do remember that students on GATE have to maintain a certain grade point average to continue getting funding.

    Should GATE funding really be the focus of budget cuts when there is so much wastage in other areas of the Education budget? I’m looking at you EFCL!

    There are so many areas of the National budget that continues to put “good money after bad” without censure it makes you wonder why politicians/senior public servants seem to always have an itch for cutting GATE.

  10. A very valid argument. Hope the powers that reads your post/ article. While there have been wastage through GATE over the years it’s mainly as a result of ppl transferring from one degree programme to another and taking 5 to 6 years to complete a degree or repeat a year for free. One can asked the student to pay for the years “extra” to complete their degree.
    Hope the means test is not applied to Tech/Voc programmes like Tertiary institutes (MIC, NESC, Costaat, Nursing schools etc.) thus giving these a real good chance of improving their lives.

    • I wouldn’t call that wastage. Germany for example, funds transfers, at the time I studied there, they funded free tertiary up to a maximum of 2 transfers. Not everyone studies the ‘right’ thing from the outset. The years pre- fall of the Berlin Wall were great economic years. Things changed a little after that.

      As it is always dependent on available funds, it’s always a good move to have students fund a small percentage of their tertiary education which can be applied on transfers or extended studies for whatever reason. There should always be exceptions to the rule such as serious illness.

    • GATE should have been monitored to avoid the wastage, Also at UWI is you failed the first year you were usually asked to leave and reapply after 2 years. There were parents making phone calls to those at the helm of UWI so they remained, Explain how you can attend UWI for 3-4 years and have a 1.4 GPA, Nonsense,. With no monitoring system until years after, many people slipped through the cracks and took advantage of the loose system and did a 1st Degree and other courses at private tertiary level FREE. (UWI and those in charge of GATE have to take blame for the lack of collaboration on the issue).Also if you want to switch your degree. Why should government have to pay for it.? that’s the free mentality since If people were paying for their education they would be certain of what they want to study, but when its not your money, it is a free for all (Check out an American student loan after studying.) On another note MEANS have been in existence fro along time and the HELP loan and thousands have taken advantage of it. Mr Manning decision to share out patrimony (oil money with the nation was commendable) Oil prices are down, People need to adjust.We like to compare T&T with European countries but thye dont deal with corruption

    • Rossana Glasgow that’s true that they don’t deal with corruption across the board like we do but they do have corruption very high up eh so don’t think you’re dealing with Angels in the EU either but that’s what they’re good at now, giving to the masses while a few steal higher up.

      And no, it’s not free, it’s paid for by our own taxes. You think the government makes all of its own money. Our tax rates are high enough, we should be enjoying perfect roads for the very least.

    • Our taxes are certainly not EU taxes Linda, you know that.

  11. Is there evidence that there will be a decrease. I crime,teenage pregnancy,drug abuse.
    Are the persons leading now the beneficiaries of tertiary education, like the leaders of CFL, like the people in charge of the Port,like the people managing our hospitals,? Etc etc etc

  12. Yea, and d differently – abled ppl, r still treated lk dogs.
    With all d billions passed tru dis country 99.9% of d learning institutions don’t have access 4 them, and by extension denying them GATE.
    There by keeping them out of society,and at d bottom of d latter.
    That’s a Neo-Nazi (unspoken) policy, followed by every government, every party . In this so – called democratic country.

  13. The writer forgets that before Gate is applied tuition etc is already subsidized

  14. This miniister of Education is miopic;to focus on a political 5yr plan. A leader ship syle not suited for the present lifestyle. What is more alarming I observed at my campus there is a gender equilibrium shift, less males are enrolling for the graduate and post graduate courses.

  15. In a time of structural readjustment and a contracting economy, this piece is calling for more subsidies, more government intervention, more freeness.

    • Explain how the rest of the world is doing good while T&T is the only economy “contracting.” Hell, even Guyana is doing better than us. No other country in the hemisphere wants to accept our currency; not even Tobago. The contracting is a result of putting a waanbe contractor as a financial guru, who is a as clueless as they come…

  16. Chickens coming home to roost that’s all. Tragic.

  17. Check your spelling. Apart from that

  18. We need to fix the education system which has been failing us for decades and creating criminals, before demanding the government invest more money at the tertiary level. Over $6.4 billion dollars allotted to GATE. Where is the evaluation?, Did we get value for money? Currently there are thousands with degrees who are unemployed. More Importantly is the quality of graduates coming out of the system who lack basic English,(written and oral) lack critical thinking skills and according to employers are unable to function in the workplace. Students are taught to regurgitate and cram, not critically think which is needed in the work place, so fix the broken system before pumping more money into a failing system. Since the introduction of GATE UWI have been spilling out thousands of graduates annually. There are persons running around with PhdDs, corrupt lawyers and doctors (if was in the US would have been facing malpractice suits given the mortality rates (mothers and babies) in child birth between 2010-2015). Thousands of us took loans to study, Oil money done, GATE had to be shut down. Let’s move on . You want to study do the MEANS Test to qualify for GATE or take a loan. I’m sure banks/Credit Union , UTC have made provisions and are willing to advise you

  19. One of the few articles from wired868 that i completely disagree with

    • Even I don’t agree with all the columns on Wired868, so that’s fine. Lol. But what part specifically did you disagree with in this one?

    • The idea that the Government owes us a UNIVERSITY education is ridiculous! Try the USA, Canada and the UK for size. Citizens of countries that provide FULL and FANTASTIC education to ALL, do NOT PAY 25% taxes – rather they pay up to 60% – THEN YES, the Government can afford it ALL, A-class Health Care and GREAT education – until then, we can no longer expect all the FREENESS for all and sundry! What our students are now being offered is far MORE than many First World countries!

    • That the government is responsible for providing tertiary education to all citizens in all fields of study..no way…gate was completely abused and achie ed almost none of the economic development objectives of the country…

  20. Because they don’t want you be educated like them so they are making hard for you but always remember where horses reach Jackasses reach too

  21. In true Trini style ppl want free tertiary education whilst spending their miney on a luxurious lifestyle.

  22. isnt it already subsidized ?

  23. isnt it already subsidised?