Editorial — 20 February 2016

A couple weeks ago Dr. Dorian Barrow wrote an article in The Reporter in which he called for the old Belize Teachers College to be separated from the University of Belize (UB) and returned to its individual institutional status. His argument was that the national university has failed to do an adequate job of training teachers to acceptable standards, but the statistics he presented to buttress his argument, which was that the Belize Teachers College in its time had done a better job of same, were not all that convincing.

In his article, Dr. Barrow, who was the chief executive officer in the Ministry of Education at the time the national university was being established in the year 2000, and therefore a “big man”on both the University College of Belize (UCB) board and the UB board which succeeded it, confessed that he had supported the inclusion of Teachers College in the five-institution amalgamation of August 2000 which the University of Belize represented. Now, he was changing his mind. (The Government of Belize, led by then Prime Minister Said Musa, amalgamated the UCB, Belize Teachers College, Belize Technical College, the Bliss School of Nursing, and the Belize College of Agriculture to form UB.)

In 1984, Said Musa had been Minister of Education in a People’s United Party (PUP) Cabinet led by Prime Minister George Price, and he had moved to establish something called the Belize College of Arts, Science and Technology (BELCAST). Mr. Musa’s vision in 1984 was progressive. At the time he was still being influenced by the successes the Cuban Revolution had achieved in educating the Cuban people.

The political leaders of both the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) and the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) know that Belize’s so-called church-state system of education is an absolute sacred cow. Belize’s political leaders also know that Belize’s system of education has been and is an abject national failure but the church leaders, who administer Belize’s education budget, control too many votes at election time. It would be politically suicidal to criticize the system.

BELCAST was probably a move in the right direction, but then the PUP lost power in the December 1984 general election. UDP Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel appointed Derek Aikman, a right winger, Minister of Education, and Aikman immediately dismantled what had been put together at BELCAST. He replaced it with the University College of Belize, essentially a tertiary business school with ties to, or under the tutelage of, an American university in Michigan called Ferris State University.

The PUP returned to power in 1989, and Mr. Musa again became Minister of Education. But, his views had apparently changed. He made no move to dismantle UCB or to change its excessive and irrelevant business bias. The new PUP government of 1989 did not include Mr. Musa’s lifelong friend, the socialist Assad Shoman. Mr. Musa’s new Cabinet friends were the powerful neoliberals who were like adopted sons of Mr. Price – Ralph Fonseca and Glenn Godfrey.

Like Ralph and Glenn, Dorian Barrow was a second generation PUP whose party credentials were impeccable. Dorian’s mother, Mavis, had been a foundation PUP and a close personal friend of the iconic Mr. Price’s. When Dorian Barrow, then a teacher at St. Michael’s College, ran on the PUP Belize City Council slate in 1980 and topped the polls for the triumphant PUP, it seemed he was in line to succeed Deputy Premier C.L.B. Rogers as the PUP’s Southside hero. But, it never happened. There was an accident one night, and Dorian’s political career was derailed. He immersed himself in academics and earned a Ph.D.

When the PUP returned to glorious power in 1998, after the 1993–1998, interregnum, Dorian was one of the entitled second-generation, PUP personalities. It is clear to us at this newspaper that his loyalty was to Ralph Fonseca. Ralph and Glenn wanted the UB amalgamation because they had their eyes on choice pieces of real estate in Belize City, most notably the Belize Technical College campus which Godfrey intended to be the office complex for his new telephone company. Remember Intelco? Ralph and Glenn did not give much of a damn about Belizean youth and about education. They were in it for the money.

The reason Evan X Hyde had become the chairman of the board at UCB in November of 1999 and then the first UB chairman of the board in August of 2000, had nothing to do with Ralph Fonseca, Glenn Godfrey, or Dorian Barrow. It had to do with a progressive vision for national education which Said Musa had shared in his younger days. In this vision, Belize Technical College was supposed to become a full-fledged school of engineering. But Ralph and Glenn wanted the Technical campus for Intelco, and that was what Dorian Barrow dedicated himself to – the Ralph and Glenn vision.

We have tried to give you some background to the Dorian Barrow career and state tertiary education in Belize since 1984 in order to focus on the matter of Belize Technical College. If Dr. Barrow were serious and nationalistic, and wished to repent for any of his transgressions, then he should have called for Technical to be returned to sovereign status many years ago. Once the Government of Belize reneged on its school of engineering promise, and it was historically the case that Ralph Fonseca did so renege shortly after UB was established in August 2000, Technical could and should have been re-established.

Mr. Fonseca waged a personal war against the Evan X Hyde chairmanship at UB, cutting the university’s budget every year between 2000 and 2004 while placing anti-UB and anti-chairman articles in the UDP newspaper on a weekly basis. You will ask. How was the most powerful man, in the PUP running articles in the UDP newspaper attacking, a longstanding friend of, his Prime Minister? This was the old Bowen & Bowen connection. Check stats.

UDP Education Minister Patrick Faber recently threatened 1300 teachers with the guillotine because they had failed to get themselves properly trained and qualified. The PUP made this a political issue, as they are entitled to do. Dr. Barrow’s attempt to make the matter an issue of academic organization was an imaginative one. But no one anywhere in political or academic circles has made any kind of response, or even acknowledged Dr. Barrow’s recent paper, as far as we are aware. This is sad, because, and you know us, we would have liked to listen to the debate.

Our feeling is that Dorian Barrow was a talented Belizean who made some decisions which were more convenient than courageous. For him to become relevant again, Dr. Barrow needs to look himself in the eye and get serious. All of us stumble and fall in our lives. It’s not that big a deal if you climb to your feet and stand tall. This is Belize. We need all of us to fight for Belize.

Power to the people! Remember Danny. Fight for Belize.


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