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UWI arts students protest facilities

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Students of the University of the West Indies’s (UWI) Department of Creative and Festival Arts (DCFA) lined the pavements outside their campus yesterday afternoon as they continued protest action against the quality of the facilities where they are being relocated once their original department building is torn down. They taped their mouths and queued up side-by-side with placards condemning moves to have their department building torn down after 25 years. Some signs read Cars Can’t Dance and Banks Need Artists, in reference to the car park which is to take the place of the school compound and the rumours of the unconfirmed bank they believe is funding the project.

One of students said with the Continuous Assessment Component (CAC) introduced into primary schools, pupils would be required to study drama and music for the exams but there would be no proper facility in UWI afterwards for children who wished to become certified in the arts. According to Robert Noel, a member of UWI’s Student Association and final year student of the DCFA, there was a 2009-2017 plan for a leasable performance centre which students previously believed was intended for them and they had been willing to accept.  It was later revealed they were mistaken and the centre was meant for international performers and people willing to pay to use the space. Noel said the students used the Learning Resource Centre in lieu of a centre but they have to pay a fee to do so.

Chad Cumberbatch, a DCFA protester, claimed students were told the DCFA campus was “too expensive to maintain.” Noel and fellow student, Pamela Bain, later told the T&T Guardian the Faculty of Law building was erected a little lower on that street recently although the DCFA had been complaining about their situation for about ten years. Some students expressed concern for their safety and worried about being potentially robbed at their future Gordon Street facility when leaving after rehearsal at later hours. The chances of flooding and the sewerage problem at the facility is also a pressing issue for the students who also complained there was not enough space at the school for performances and events. 


The students have been continuously protesting and pleading their case. They are asking for proper consultation so that they can speak to those who have a say in the faculty arrangements and come to a mutual agreement. Clement Sankat, UWI principal, was unable to comment on yesterday’s protest, saying he only recently returned to Trinidad. He said: “I thought the department was engaging in discussions. I don’t know about any of this going on today.”


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