Just a few weeks after being installed as Barbados’ first Prime Minister in late 1961, Errol Barrow and his Democratic Labour Party (DLP) government issued a decree providing free secondary education.
Current PM, Freundel Stuart, who was just 10 years old at the time, was one of many Barbadians to benefit from that declaration. Employed as a maid on a rural plantation earning $5 a week, his mom had to fork out $24 for him to attend Christ Church Foundation School.
In the feature address at the DLP Barbados (Canada) fifth annual anniversary last Saturday night in Scarborough, Stuart said Barrow’s first act as PM brought relief to many struggling Barbadian families.
“You could well imagine the contours of relief that took shape across my mother’s face and those of scores of fathers and mothers across Barbados when the announcement went out that fee-paying was abolished,” he said.
“The bastilles of privilege in education in Barbados were smashed by that initiative and young men and women from some of the humblest homes in Barbados could look forward to starting and ending their education without the burden of having to pay school fees…That transformed Barbados because it was a single investment in the human capital of Barbados that readied the country for all of the development that we have seen since.”
Under Barrow’s astute leadership, Barbados achieved several significant social reforms and national advances.
“Whether you are talking about women, workers, children and the country itself, the fingerprints of Errol Barrow and the Democratic Labour Party can be found all across the 166 square miles we call Barbados,” Stuart said. “We are inspired by the quality of his work, by the vigour of his commitment and by the clarity of his purpose…His leadership touched and transformed Barbados in ways unprecedented. He has left a legacy upon which those who have succeeded him should want to build…When I look back at his leadership in Barbados and in the Caribbean, I treat that as a beginning of which I am permitted to be in the continuation.”
Stuart, who was sworn in as Barbados’ seventh Prime Minister two years ago following the death of David Thompson, said the country is holding its own despite tough economic challenges.
“This is the most difficult period in the country’s history, but all politics is about making choices and all good politics is about making informed choices which we are doing,” said Stuart, a University of the West Indies Law graduate who is also Minister of Civil Service, National Security and Urban Development. “So far, we have managed to keep the country stable and we intend to continue in that direction while introducing those changes necessary to prepare Barbados for a grand take-off when this crisis comes to an end.”
Stuart said while his party welcomes financial contributions, nationals in Canada and the rest of the Diaspora can play their part without making any monetary donations.
“Every household in Barbados has a relative or friend that lives in the Diaspora,” he said. “All I want you to do is let them know how fortunate they are to be surviving as relatively comfortably as they are in spite of this horrible crisis that has bedeviled the world ever since the last quarter of 2007. Let them know that you live in larger, bigger and richer countries than Barbados and that the pressures are being felt in those countries and they have a lot to be thankful for. That will not cost you a cent to do.”
The annual DLP Barbados (Canada) event honours the memory of Barrow who co-founded the party, trained with the Royal Air Force in the Maritimes and was conferred with an honorary doctorate of Civil Law by McGill University in 1966, the same year he led his country to independence and became his country’s first prime minister. He died in 1987 at age 67.
Former consul general in Toronto Dr. Leroy McClean – a longstanding DLP member – and his wife attended the event. He returned to Barbados two months ago to become chief executive officer of the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation.
By RON FANFAIR