Fitzgerald: University of The Bahamas Bill drafted with future in mind

by: Jaimie Smith, News Reporter - Published Thursday, July 14, 2016

The College of The Bahamas is one step closer to becoming the University of The Bahamas, as members in the House of Assembly began debate on the Bill for an Act to provide the establishment of university status.


While the Bill was introduced in the House of Assembly on May 25, yesterday, Wednesday, July 13, members began their contributions in support of the Bill.


Minister responsible for Education, Science and Technology, Jerome Fitzgerald, offered his contribution on the historic Bill that will transition the College of The Bahamas (COB) to University status.


“As a Bahamian, today is one of my proudest moments. In this Bill is the promise of our people. This Bill represents a vision for the future. This Bill extends the hands of hope and embraces tangible opportunity for a great nation. This is indeed the day that the Lord has made,” said Fitzgerald.


“Mr. Speaker, our government has a vision for higher education that is progressive and meets the needs of our ever-changing population. This vision is for a national university in The Bahamas.


“A vision, Mr. Speaker, when embraced by the people, can bring about change. Change for a stronger and more modern Bahamas for everyone. This is what the University of The Bahamas will mean and it is just another example of a promise fulfilled by our government, since elected in 2012.”


Fitzgerald noted that the government has now delivered on every single promise it gave in the area of education in its Charter for Governance. “In fact, we have gone far above and beyond our promises. We have done so in four short years. It is fitting that as we deliver the final promise it is the most significant, the University of The Bahamas.”


The Minister of Education shared that the transformation of COB to the University of The Bahamas will result in improvements in academics, service, infrastructure and financial management.


“These improvements coupled with our government’s more than doubling its investment in scholarships since 2011 from $7.75 million to $16.2 million in 2016, give us an enhanced capacity to ensure quality education for our people, especially our young people, to empower them to reach higher and to contribute to the national development of our nation.


“Our Prime Minister, Perry Christie, said last year that the University of The Bahamas will be a defining step in the evolution of The Bahamas. Indeed that is true Mr. Speaker.”


Additionally, Fitzgerald noted that boasting of university status, COB will not only be referred to as ‘Nassau-centric,’ but that it will indeed envelop the entire archipelago.


“It is most important to note that the University of The Bahamas Bill is drafted with the future in mind. It is also important to note that this drafting incorporates the concept of a national university for the entire country and one that will not be a Nassau-centric institution.   


“With that being said, I want to note that within the Bill, the Board of Trustees will be authorized to approve the creation and establishment of colleges under the umbrella of the University of The Bahamas system.  


“In other words this Bill is more than a Bill to establish the university, but a Bill to allow for the growth and expansion of the university throughout our islands to – it is hoped – eventually, reaching every Bahamian boy and girl, every father and mother throughout our nation,” said Fitzgerald.


“The entire country will be seen as the campus for the University of The Bahamas. As we speak, the administrators on the main campus, although located in the capital, meets weekly via videoconference, with administrative staff from all campuses, including Grand Bahama in the north and San Salvador in the south.


“The campus in San Salvador, a residential research institute, is completely owned by the College of The Bahamas and, under the university, this campus will expand further adding to the depth and breadth of anthropological and sustainability research for the benefit of the entire country. 


“This campus already can house 250 students. It will become heavily coordinated with the Small Island Sustainability Research Complex at the Oakes Field Campus, which is presently under construction,” Fitzgerald explained.


“At the San Salvador campus, the Research Faculty will teach and conduct seminars between the Small Island Sustainability Research Complex and on-site field stations in San Salvador. In years to come, this could be the University of The Bahamas’ College of Anthropology and Sustainability Studies,” added Education Minister.


“The campus in Grand Bahama Island, with approximately 500 students, as I mentioned, is currently witnessing the construction of its first residential facility. Like the campus in the south, this campus will become a Centre of Excellence in the areas of Industrial Manufacturing, Entrepreneurial Studies and Maritime Studies. This campus is moving toward greater autonomy and decision-making authority,” stated Fitzgerald. 


He acknowledged that in the near future, the Northern Bahamas Campus (NBC) could be referred to as College of Engineering and Technology, noting that the above mentioned campuses will grow and blossom into campuses that will attract both students and faculty nationally as well as internationally. 


By doing so, he added that these individuals will in turn contribute to the economic and social growth of their respective communities.


“Likewise, in the east, the university will seek to strengthen its relationship with the Island School in South Eleuthera, while further expanding its presence in Exuma in the area of Sustainable Development Studies.


“It is only a natural progression then, that the residential campus located in the west, The Bahamas Agricultural and Marine Sciences Institute – BAMSI – come under the umbrella administrative structure of the University of The Bahamas; with its academic component becoming the University of The Bahamas’ College of Agriculture and Marine Sciences,” noted Fitzgerald.


By transitioning to university status, Fitzgerald noted, the University of The Bahamas (UB) will link education, training and research to the requirements for sustainable national development, which in turn, will become an entrenched and uniquely valuable institution that supports the needs of our society, and the future that our community strives to be.


“This institution must be one that preserves the critical truth-telling role of a national academy. National universities around the world are places of critical, intellectual reflection on the lived experiences forming their national context and instruments for improving the lives of citizens.”


Fitzgerald noted that having a national university is extremely important for any country, in order to develop and retain talented and committed young persons to contribute to nation building. “It really goes to the heart of what it means to be a sovereign nation.


“The archipelago of The Bahamas is challenged in a myriad of ways. We know where we are strong and we know where we are weak. We’ve all heard the phrase before, ‘knowledge is power.’ 


“Well with lives grounded in knowledge, all persons have the power to change their circumstances. We need to embrace a culture of learning in order to allow us to rise above, despite the circumstances we may have been dealt in life. Self-knowledge connects us to ourselves in ways that allow us to change ourselves and thus our condition.”


Fitzgerald noted, “If knowledge about our country or our local condition is not rooted and generated in our own educational institutions, there will always be the risk of our people being disconnected from it. And a people disconnected from knowledge will always face difficulties using that knowledge for transformational purposes. 


“This does not mean that we must not build on the knowledge of our global partners, take advantage of opportunities for advancement outside our borders or work with external agencies and institutions to work out solutions. 


“We must, however, move with urgency to a place where we generate knowledge about ourselves that connects us more intimately to the knowledge that is needed to bring about the social change that is required right here at home.”


The Education Minister is of the view that a national university, as envisaged with the establishment and development of the University of The Bahamas, will indeed commit to the task of generating and disseminating local knowledge, “Thereby, begin to inspire Bahamians to change their own condition in ways that will allow them to own it and thereby change it.”


Published  Thursday, July 14, 2016


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