New UWI principal aiming to improve lives

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

New UWI St Augustine principal, pro-vice chancellor Prof Rose-Marie Belle Antoine (centre), with Sharon Christopher chair of UWI St Augustine Campus Council, and Prof Densil Williams pro vice chancellor and campus principal Five Islands Campus at Belle Antoine’s induction ceremony on Saturday. – Photo by Roger Jacob

Pro vice-chancellor and campus principal of UWI St Augustine Prof Rose-Marie Belle Antoine is ready to take UWI to the forefront of innovation and healing TT’s society.

In her inaugural address, during her induction ceremony at the Daaga Auditorium, UWI, St Augustine, on Saturday night, UWI’s first female principal and first principal out of the law fraternity said, at the end of the day she wanted people to remember the “humanistic, intellectual force” of UWI.

“I intend to place this (social justice and rights) at the centre of what we do at the UWI, St Augustine. For me, the meaning of civil liberty, like equality, resides in economic and social rights, enshrined in education, health, work, water and the environment.”

She said as a youth she wanted to improve lives, and that was still her goal. She said the law allowed her to speak up for those who could not in the search for social justice, and to help forge a Caribbean society of which the people of the region could be proud.

“My impetus then and now was simply to be the disrupter of the status quo where it does not truly work for its purpose or for the majority of our citizens.”

Belle Antoine believed UWI’s collective voice needed to be stronger and more well-known worldwide, to inform debate on important issues. She wanted the average person to know and appreciate the innovations that contribute to society, and for stakeholders to look to UWI to do the important developmental work of the region.

“It is an absolute imperative for us to bring the science, not just to policy makers, but to the people. To have real impact and help to save the planet ourselves, the average citizen must identify with it, experience it, believe in it.”

She also believed research and scholarships should be “taken to the people” into communities, and by partnering with NGOs. As a result, discussions were in progress about changing how people could access education at UWI.

“In my frame of education for true development, I propose a more progressive approach to access, expanding to the underserved and forgotten. We have been insensitive to the socio-economic and socio-cultural constraints, even ethnic and gender, to accessing education especially in our professions. Admissions can no longer be based purely on CAPE results.”

She said UWI would like to consider other attributes such as leadership skills and extracurricular activities.

Other changes are already in progress.

She said the campus has started “going green,” working with Blue Waters to set up a recycling post, the campus already had products patented and was looking for manufacturers, and there is a new Sunday Newsday series called UWI On The Ground.

There were also plans to establish an Ansa McAl/UWI entrepreneurship fund, a UWI Global Offshore School of Medicine, and last month a contract was awarded to build a cocoa factory.

Before her address, vice-chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles highlighted other UWI initiatives.

He pointed out that the governments of Jamaica, Barbados, and Antigua and Barbuda agreed to vest the lands on which UWI operates from leasehold to freehold to facilitate private-public entrepreneurial activities.

“Just four days ago, we joined with Prime Minister (Gaston) Browne in Antigua and Barbuda to secure a loan from the Saudi Development Fund of US$80 million to build out the Five Islands Campus into a state-of-the-art academy.”

He added, two months ago the rebranding of the Open Campus to the Global Campus, and the establishment of a company to begin the global for profit marketing of Caribbean knowledge, was approved.

In attendance were numerous dignitaries including St Lucia PM Philip J Pierre, Speaker of the House of Assembly of Saint Lucia Claudius Francis, Chief Justice Ivor Archie, Attorney General Reginald Armour, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Santa Rosa First People Community chief, Richardo Hernandez, ministers and parliamentarians, and former UWI St Augustine principals.