The University of the West Indies (The UWI) on Monday said it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the University of St Martin (USM), allowing for further collaboration and regional development between the Dutch Caribbean and English-speaking territories of The UWI.
The UWI Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles and Valerie Giterson-Pantophlet, President of the Board of USM, met virtually to sign the MOU with the Prime Minister of St Maarten, Silveria Jacob, saying her administration was happy “to facilitate, assist and promote any collaborations especially within our region whereby our people will be empowered.
“It is in keeping with our government’s aim to be progressive with education and with our goal to better equip our citizens with future knowledge goals and skills,’ she told the ceremony.
Giterson Pantophlet said that the MOU is “one that will allow USM to further its goals of preparing a cadre of professionals that is equipped with the regional and global knowledge to advance the healthy development of our countrymen and women.
“We have found that to maintain our destiny, identity and autonomy as the national institute for higher education in St Maarten, it is necessary to extend our hands in friendship with respect to each of our trajectories as well as recognising the historical, cultural ties we share,” she added.
The UWI said that as an economic historian, Sir Hilary brought context to the importance of the occasion, noting that after 528 years almost to the date, of Christopher Columbus’ entry into the region on October 12, 1492, that this is “a historic and courageous project that seeks to reverse the legacies of the Columbus project, to put those legacies behind us so that we can go forward as one people, one sovereign nation, one civilisation
“This is a moment in which two universities have agreed to transcend all of these divisive relationships and to pursue that common goal which is to build capacity to strengthen the next generation and all the peoples of the Caribbean,” Sir Hilary said, noting that until now, the indigenous civilisation of the Caribbean has been broken and fragmented by imperial interventions.
One of the first tangible outputs from the MOU will be a Bachelor of Science degree programme in Social Work by The UWI Open Campus and USM, expected to begin in 2021.
In addition to the BSc programme, the MOU provides a framework that is expected to enable the two universities to enter into an even closer institutional partnership within The UWI system which will attract more students as well as higher levels and greater strategies for research, ultimately leading to the generation more revenue for both.
“For the wider Caribbean, the historic partnership model demonstrates the implementation of stronger Caribbean education response to the challenges facing the region,” The UWI statement added.