It was a day of celebration yesterday when the Five Islands campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) held its inaugural graduation ceremony.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne described the event as an “historic occasion” in his keynote address.
“For the first time since the university was created in Jamaica in 1948, a campus exists on Antigua to serve especially the people of the Leeward and Windward Islands,” he told those assembled.
The Five Islands campus is the fourth landed campus to be established in 71 years.
“In doing so, UWI further fulfils its mandate to advance education and create knowledge through excellence in teaching, research, innovation, public service, intellectual leadership and outreach in order to support the inclusive development of the Caribbean region and beyond, including its social, economic, political, cultural and environmental aspects,” Browne continued.
He said yesterday’s graduates had “become a part of history”.
“Their names will forever be emblazoned in the history of this campus, in the history of the University of the West Indies, in the history of the Leeward and Windward Islands, and in the history of the West Indian people.”
The PM described the graduation of six people – all women – with a post-graduate diploma in education as a “small step in numbers, but a great leap in achievement”.
“It is amazing that the females are today outperforming the males, but the under-achievement of our males is becoming increasingly worrisome,” the PM warned.
“The latter is an issue that currently occupies the attention of the Cabinet as we seek to devise strategies to increase the matriculation and graduation of more males with a university degree.
“Whereas all work adds to national productivity and is embraced, more of our young males need to increase their ambition from climbing the back of a truck to work on a construction site, to achieving a university degree.”
Prime Minister Browne congratulated the graduates, saying, “I trust that the males will emulate your success.
“Your hard work is paying off, and you are taking your rightful place as equal partners to men in our societies that need the contribution and hard work of both.”
He added, “You have written yourselves into the annals of this campus’ history. In the decades to come, as the early beginnings of the Five Islands campus will be recalled, your names will glow brightly as its first stars.”
The graduates were Launée Richards (valedictorian), Netisha Alie-Grant, Jerushah Baynes, Shanique Gumbs, Marsha Lay-Jarvis and Lakiesha Mack.