The Editor, Sir:
It is with reluctance that I write this letter. The Guild of Students at the University of the West Indies a few days ago marched to protest against a rumoured freeze on subsidy given to tertiary institutions as one of the conditionalities of an International Monetary Fund agreement. I reluctantly write because I remember the days that I spent at the university and I understand the struggle that many students face. The cost of books, food and tuition to name but three can be burdensome to say the least; more so for students from families already struggling to survive
However, what the guild and its students have obviously overlooked is that these are not ordinary times. Everybody has been asked to share the burden. So far, there have been an increase in taxes, wage freeze, debt exchange and a public-sector rationalisation is under way. These are difficult times.
Students at the university need to recognise the privileged role that they occupy in society. They have a responsibility to take up the mantle of leadership as well as to find creative ways to voice their concerns without having to take to the streets. They must form themselves into an effective lobby to present their case. That aside, my greater point is that they too need to recognise that they must also share the burden that the rest of Jamaica has been asked to bear, many in far less fortunate positions than they are.
It is not that Jamaicans are unsympathetic to their plight but while the tuition they pay may be onerous, they must not forget that they are still paying only a fraction of the cost of their education. What is sad, too, is that when many graduate, they are not loyal to Jamaica and given their increased marketability, they are quick to migrate oblivious to the investment that taxpayers have made towards their education.
Jamaica needs a different set of university students who, while they continue to enjoy themselves at Integration Thursdays and the nightclubs, are also socially aware and sensitive. Jamaica needs a group of students willing to put country above self and instead of demonstrating, they should be asking not what their country can do for them but what they can do for Jamaica.
I am, etc.,
London School of Economics