WHILE progressive governments in developed and developing countries are deepening their investments in education, Trinidad and Tobago is doing the opposite, according to former trade minister Vasant Bharath.
“We are busy dumbing down our society and putting ourselves in danger of getting in the company of Papua New Guinea, North Korea, Haiti and Somalia, countries that pay little attention to the education of their citizens,” he charged.
He said increased spending on education was needed to make societies more educated and qualified with the requisite skills for a modern and competitive world.
Bharath compared the slashing of spending in the sector and the closure of four Univerity of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) campuses to the increased spending of more than $1 billion in funding to the URP and CEPEP. He said this is an indication of Government’s “twisted focus and priorities.”
“The major reduction in GATE (tertiary education grants) funding is irrational, short-sighted and reckless and threatens to exclude many bright and able students who are unable to pay for advanced tertiary education.”
Cuts in GATE funding and in the number of national scholarships from 400 to 100 were announced last week.
Bharath quoted a recent World Bank Report which showed that under the current administration, less than three per cent of GDP was being spent on education before the cuts to GATE and award of scholarships.
“In fact, TT was ranked 145th among 197 countries on education spending. Cuba was ranked first in this part of the world with 12.9 per cent of GDP. With this senseless reduction in GATE funding, this country could soon slip to the lowest tier of countries with respect to investments in education.”
Bharath said the reason Singapore is ahead of its counterparts, with adult literacy recorded at 97 per cent, and used as a benchmark, is because of its heavy investment in education.
“There are many studies that show that a lack of access to education invariably leads to lack of opportunity and subsequent crime and criminal activity, yet, for another time, this failed PNM Government is throwing its hands up in the air with respect to crime.”
As he embarked on his campaign for the post of political leader of the United National Congress (UNC) on Wednesday night, Bharath said the Opposition is failing in its representation.
“Each UNC member must ask whether he or she is prepared to stand idly by while the PNM dismantles the education sector, sends home workers, raids the treasury, introduces more taxes and generally punishes the nation.
“Look at the misery already inflicted upon the population in just three months after the election. Think of what will take place after five years if the people are not mobilised and the PNM is not challenged.”
He urged, “Don’t squander this opportunity. We have witnessed the worst government being elected into office in 2015 and re-elected in 2020 because our party was unable to convince voters we were the better choice.”