Address by His Excellency Sir Rodney Williams GCMG, KGN, KSt.J, MBBS, PhD(h.c)
Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda and Patron of UWI Global Giving
Good evening , executive and fellow members of the Antigua and Barbuda Chapter of the UWI Alumni Association. As Patron of the UWI Global Giving month 2020, I welcome all of you to our very first online interactive experience.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought on many global challenges, and positive initiatives such as this online interaction are now becoming commonplace. Hopefully, the convenience of this portal will enable more frequent interactions between us that will in turn provide increased opportunities to strengthen our association and our UWI by extension.
Let us take some time to reflect upon the profound and acclaimed history of our institution, some of its recent achievements and its need for continued support with focus on the UWI Global Giving Month 2020. At the end of my presentation, we would welcome your input and feedback , and a declaration of whatever support you are willing to provide for this initiative.
We have every reason to be proud of our academic association with the University of the West Indies. Our eminent Vice Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, spoke about the significant strides that our UWI has made in its over 70 years of existence, at a recently convened meeting of UWI patrons from across the region and the USA.
He referred to the fact that, historically, our UWI is the largest and longest standing higher education provider in the English-speaking Caribbean with five campuses, landed and online and nearly 50,000 enrolled students and over 120,000 alumni including ourselves. It is no small feat that Nobel Laureates, Heads of State, Heads of Government and Ministers of Government, heads of religious institutions, internationally recognised professionals and business leaders and senior civil servants have walked the halls of our University of the West Indies.
Sir Hilary took the opportunity to highlight the recent achievements of UWI, of which you may be aware. The reputable Times Higher Education has just ranked our UWI among the top 1% universities in the world, the top 1% of universities in Latin America and the Caribbean and the top 1% in the Golden Age University category for 2020. Added to this, our UWI is recognised as the world’s foremost authority in research, knowledge creation and innovation on matters related to the Caribbean and Small Island States, including climate change.
Nineteen (19) days ago on August 1, 2020 when we celebrated Emancipation Day across the region, our UWI at Cave Hill Campus launched a new Faculty of Culture, Creative and Performing Arts. The aim is to empower graduates to generate personal and national wealth, local intellectual property rights, new employment opportunities, jobs and businesses regionally. It also opens a new conversation regarding the Caribbean as an owner and rights holder rather than a participant in the global creative economy that today accounts for USD$2.225 billion or three percent of the world’s gross domestic product. With the launch of this faculty, the total number of faculties of our UWI stands at nine (9) and the number of certificate, diploma, undergraduate and post graduate degree programmes stand at over eight hundred.
Another recent stride is, of course, the opening of the Five Islands University Campus right here in Antigua. I am sure that we were all encouraged by the news of increased applications to attend the UWI Five Islands Campus for the upcoming academic year.
The theme for this year’s Global Giving Month, from August 1st to 31st, is “Emancipate, Educate and Donate.” We collectively celebrate Emancipation Day in the Caribbean on August 1 and use the occasion to reflect and build upon our difficult and burdensome past.
Accordingly, when we speak about emancipation, we can well envision both the historic and institutional acts of freedom which have taken place. The region’s success story is a reflection of the overcoming of our challenges – as descendants of a resilient people who surmounted the scourges of slavery and struggled for survival. We now command the attention of the world as we paddle our canoe as an independent nation.
On an institutional level, the fact that we are now seeking to become proprietors of our own economic destiny, even as we expand the scope for learning at UWI through the addition of new faculties and campuses, represents the emancipation from the global dominance of more economically powerful countries of the world. These countries, once uniquely powered by extensive research and academia, are now no longer such a formidable threat to the expansion and development of our Caribbean nations.
Our commitment to educate is the reason that the Global Giving funds collected have been used to support needy students and other UWI initiatives. In 2016 when the UWI Global Giving initiative was launched in Antigua and Barbuda, we were able to collectively make a difference by giving generously. I am pleased to share that the majority of that donation is presently funding an Antiguan and Barbuda student pursuing a degree in medicine under the Sir Rodney Williams Medical Scholarship programme. This young man, with exceptional grades in school and the Antigua State College, was fiscally challenged having only the loving support of an aunt and grandmother who raised him. He continues to perform at the top of his class and is expected to graduate in a year.
Education is an important cornerstone in the building of any nation. We all acknowledge that the raison d’être of our UWI is to educate the people of the Caribbean. This is one of the most important elements in effecting our freedom — in emancipating us from intellectual captivity. You, our present alumni, who have passed through the doors of our university, have a responsibility to assist in the continuation and sustainability of UWI so that it can help others while strengthening the resource capacity of our people, of our countries and of our region.
In response to the many suggestions for improving this Global Giving initiative, our UWI has created a very user friendly interface and portal for donations. The link has been circulated to the UWI Alumni Associations, or you can simply search online for UWI Global Giving and you will be automatically transported to the home page. We are proposing that all alumni members click on ‘donate’ and give US$10 or more on a one time or regular basis. This year, the focus is on assisting students who have fallen victim to the economic impact of Covid-19. If we are appreciative of what quality education has done for us, we will be moved to support this worthy venture. We need to remember the theme of Our UWI’s Global Giving Initiative – Emancipate; Educate; Donate! Help to make a difference. If each of us (and I am told that there should be at least 200 members) can give at least US$10, we can achieve the minimum goal of raising US$2020 in one week. So, rise to the challenge, support Caribbean Development, support our UWI. Give tonight.
In closing my brief remarks and before I open the room to your comments and questions, may I pause to remind you that UWI is ours and we must together take care of our own! I am confident in your commitment and your willingness to support this very worthwhile initiative, and in your drive to make Global Giving Month 2020 a formidable success. Many thanks.