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UWI valedictorian laments uneven scholarship distribution: Humanities overlooked

Karisa Krystal Bridgelal, who recently participated in Newsday’s Youth Lens and Opinions education project, delivers the valedictory address on the final day of UWI 
graduation ceremonies yesterday.
Karisa Krystal Bridgelal, who recently participated in Newsday’s Youth Lens and Opinions education project, delivers the valedictory address on the final day of UWI graduation ceremonies yesterday.

A university graduate, yesterday, admonished the Government for its perceived neglect of humanities when issuing scholarships, annually, to Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination students.

Karisa Krystal Bridgelal, delivering the valedictory address at the graduation ceremony for the Faculty of Humanities and Education at the St Augustine Campus of the University of West Indies, said humanities continued to be sidelined in the distribution of scholarships.

“The humanities is underestimated and often overlooked,” she told the graduates who were gathered in the UWI Sports and Physical Education Centre.

“We see it everyday in the linear train of thought throughout society, we see it in the scholarships distributed by our Government that are skewed towards the sciences, towards math and towards technology.”

This year, approximately ten students in the areas of the creative arts, languages and the humanities, received scholarships–a figure which paled in comparison to those offered in business, mathematics and natural sciences.

Bridgelal, who graduated with a bachelors of arts degree in literatures in English, psychology and human resource management (first class honours), observed that the seeming disregard for the humanities was a worldwide phenomenon.

“We read online about the global epidemic of the termination of the humanities departments worldwide,” she said, adding the situation had also caused students to “even underestimate ourselves in moments of weakness.”

“How many of us have been posed with the condescending question: ‘So, what do you think you could do with that degree when you’re finished?’ Or perhaps you’ve heard, ‘Maybe writing and performing could be a thing on the side, you need to get a stable job first.’”

Bridgelal, who recently participated in Newsday’s Youth Lens and Opinions (NYLO) education project, added: “There may be times when we feel like Sisyphus–forced to continually roll the boulder uphill. But remember this. Our academic interests and our passions matter, to us obviously but to those who may not even recognise what we do here, they are neither meaningless nor futile.”

Tenisha Sylvester, a recent particpant in Newsday’s Youth Lens and Opinions education project, at the graduation ceremony for the Faculty of Humanities and Education at the
St Augustine Campus of the University of the
West Indies.

The Government has identified the creative sector as one of the pillars for diversification as it grapples with the effects of the economic downturn.

Bridgelal, whose address was punctuated by loud applause, said the onus was on students to highlight the importance of the humanities.

“It is our responsibility as we are presented with the opportunities of proving, to society, the capabilities of the humanities.

“And where there aren’t opportunities, we will create them because that is what the humanities represents–the exploration of creative, insightful, critical and independent thought. The kind of thought that cannot be stifled and cannot be contained.”

She added: “We are the ones whose responsibility it is to harness our skills and abilities and to use our platforms from social media to the digital humanities to make sense of the world.

“We are the ones who must solidify the relevance and significance of our fields by advocating for the arts and for freedom of humanistic expressions.

We are the writers. We are the storytellers. We are the film makers. We are the linguists. We are the performers. We are the artists. We are the commentators and communicators. We are the critical thinkers. We are the creatives. We are the best that UWI has to offer.”

Earlier in her address, Bridgelal said the School of Education and English Language and Literature with Education (ELLE) graduates will play a major role in resolving the crises plaguing young people throughout the region.

“The future is literally in your hands as you respond to the ongoing crises in our education system where many of our nation’s young minds and voices are silenced, their potential untapped and their contributions undervalued.

“You have the ability to harvest what you’ve learnt and replant the seeds of knowledge that will shape their growth.”

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