The media is reporting that the UWI Penal-Debe Campus, built during the People’s Partnership Administration continues to sit empty and has never opened its doors to students. This campus has cost the taxpayers of Trinidad and Tobago over $600 million!
On July 31 2015, just five weeks before the 2015 General Election, there was a handing over ceremony of the Deed of Ownership, in addition to the unveiling of a commemorative plaque by the then Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the University’s Chancellor Sir George Alleyne.
In September 2015, the Keith Rowley-led PNM Administration came into office and works on all educational facilities and buildings, some which were already completed and others which were in the final stages of completion were immediately halted.
The PNM’s founding father Dr Eric Williams “practised pragmatic socialism” which stressed social services, improved education and economic development and his “People’s Charter” and called for the elimination of racial and other forms of discrimination. William’s “pragmatic socialism” ideals included improved education which led him to task the nation’s children, on the eve of gaining Independence, that “each and every one of you carry the future of Trinidad and Tobago in your school bags.”
Fast forward to the current PNM’s Political Leader Dr Keith Rowley, one of Williams so-called disciples who has resorted and continues to play politics with the education of our children.
What justification can Rowley and the PNM have for not opening the Penal-Debe UWI Campus which, according to former UWI Principal Professor Clement Sankat, will have the capacity to host programs from all our faculties. “I expect the Faculties of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education and Engineering to take the lead here. It is also entirely conceivable that an educational Centre of Excellence in Medical Sciences can be created which is linked to the new Teaching and Learning Hospital in San Fernando and the San Fernando General Hospital.”
But this Penal-Debe Campus is just one education institute that has been what this writer terms part of the geographical educational discrimination by this Administration.
Just to recap that since September 2015, some of the educational institutes that have been left to rot and decay are the 95% completed Ramai Trace Hindu School, the 90% completed Reform Hindu School, the 85% completed Curepe Presbyterian School, the Parvati Girls and Shiva Boys Hindu Colleges, the 67 fully completed Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Centers, which were all constructed by the PPG.
I will posit the answer to this is a very direct statement from Rowley when as Opposition Leader, Rowley strenuously objected to the PPG’s establishment and construction of the Penal-Debe UWI Campus “because of the demography of the student population.” And to show his geographical and political biasness, he advocated that on the basis of UWI being a regional institution, location was appropriate for expansion of the institution and recalled that the previous Manning-led PNM Administration had located a piece of land in Orange Grove, along the East/West Corridor for the said purpose.
But this type of political/demographic spite and malice is nothing new to the PNM. One of the most glaring examples of this was the refusal of the Manning-led PNM Administration in 2002/2003 not to open the brand-new Biche High School constructed by the former Panday-led UNC Administration at a cost (then) of $30 Million. The PNM never opened the school because of claims(?) the site was unstable and the air was dangerous due to gas and oil emissions. In 2010, the new PPG opened the school and to date, there has never been any reports of any type of land slippage and the air quality remains very good.
The PPG, in its five years in office, ensured that rural neglect and discrimination were relegated to the dustbin but alas, under this Rowley-led PNM Government, this policy continues unabated.
Commentary by Capil Bissoon
October 30, 2023