The Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie, M.P., Prime Minister of The Bahamas, presented remarks at the official inauguration of the University of The Bahamas today, as it transitioned from The College of The Bahamas. He themed his remarks “From the Road of Transition to the Road of Possibilities: The Role of the University of The Bahamas in National Development.”
The occasion, he said, encapsulates a promise for the future of the nation as an intellectual powerhouse for the region and a fertile ground for the fulfillment of the highest academic aspirations of the nation’s youth.
The Prime Minister took the opportunity to speak to his own vision for the University in the context of the national development strategies and goals of The Bahamas and the continuing relevance of the institution. He said, *”The core role of a National University goes well beyond the inculcation of subject knowledge in its students. More fundamentally, a National University helps to shape National Identity.”* He referenced, too, the importance of commitment not only to academic excellence but also to the values and best practices of research, study, teaching and scholastic writing. *”Indeed, the values that form the aspirational cornerstone of the University of The Bahamas – Knowledge, Truth and Integrity – must not be abstract or fanciful but must instead represent the values that truly inform and guide the teaching and research faculty in all their endeavours.”*
Noting that much of what is done must revolve around the respect and care for students, and their potential for innovation and creativity, Prime Minister Christie also spoke to a number of factors considered critical going forward:
* the University must take its place as a leader of international education – attracting students from around the world to study in The Bahamas while at the same time attracting specialist researchers and professors.
* the University must play a catalytic role in the development of arts and culture.
* the University must be a place of relevance within both the national and global contexts. It is, therefore, critical that the University not only “Respond to national needs,” but also “Engage the country” in meaningful discussions.
* the University must place emphasis on research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) – which includes many disciplines that are critical to long-term planning for the future well-being of the country.
* the University must continue its scholarly research and studies into climate change, especially in relation to the menacing prospect of sea level rise and its implications for the low-lying areas of our archipelago.
* Courses on disaster management with particular reference to pre-hurricane evacuations and post-hurricane recovery and restoration, must also receive special attention, as must issues of urban planning, land use, and non-fossil fuel-based energy diversification.
* As the University looks for new opportunities to do good work and expand its horizons, it must remained focused on achieving strong results and operating accordingly to the principles and best practices of accountability.
The Prime Minister added, *”Relevance also means that the University must be cognizant of the needs of the entire country from Inagua in the south to Abaco in the north. We should therefore be able to look forward to an expansion of the system of mini-campuses, research centres and institutes across the country.”*
In conclusion, an appeal was made to the youth of the nation to become partners in the collective work towards the building of a better, more modern, more relevant, more upwardly striving and sustainable Bahamas. *”This is the promise of the people of my generation to yours”*.
**Minister of Education, Science and Technology**
Minister Jerome K. Fitzgerald also presented remarks at the Charter Day ceremony, noting that the country’s future growth, success and sustainability will be inextricably linked to the University of The Bahamas. *”The University will be the place where the brightest minds will congregate and test the elasticity of their imagination and the substance of their theories. Researchers will tackle complex challenges both locally, regionally and internationally. Young people will exchange ideas and cultures. Problems will be solved, dreams manifested and life-long friendships cultivated.”*
The Education Minister also appealed to the students in attendance, saying today was their moment in time. *”I want all of you to leave here today with this assurance; it matters not which school you attend, it is of no consequence which community you live; your parents educational background or place of work is of no relevance – as long as you believe in yourself and your God given talents, and you are prepared to work hard and dream of success, there is a space reserved for you at your University of The Bahamas.*” In this context, he called on all Bahamians to assess their value system and commit to making education not just a priority but a core Bahamian value.