Why is The UWI sugar-coating Cecil Rhodes?

Editorial

Why is The UWI sugar-coating Cecil Rhodes?

Thursday, June 25, 2020

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The regional University of the West Indies (UWI) has justifiably enjoyed the adulation of its graduates and the islands of the Caribbean, which it serves as an oasis of light in the western hemisphere.

What could therefore explain the university's blatant sugar-coating of Cecil John Rhodes, the racist British diamond magnate and imperialist partially credited with the creation of the former Apartheid system in South Africa?

On its UWI Alumni Online website, the university carries a brief biography of Rhodes, glorifying him for his famous Rhodes Scholarship but failing to mention the racist aspects of his life and his brutal exploitation of African wealth.

This is what The UWI tells the world about Cecil Rhodes:

“Cecil John Rhodes was a British diamond magnate and imperialist. Rhodes' life is part of the history of Southern Africa. The colony of Rhodesia took his name and is today known as the independent state of Zimbabwe.

“Rhodes' name is now remembered principally because of his foundation of the Rhodes Scholarships. He left the greater part of his substantial fortune to establish this scheme in his will.

“Candidates for Rhodes Scholarships are selected on the basis of 'qualities of character' as well as of intellect. Rhodes' aim was to provide future leaders of the English-speaking world with an education which would broaden their views and develop their abilities.

“He chose to endow these scholarships at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, because he believed that its residential colleges provided an environment especially conducive to personal development.

“Rhodes hoped that those who benefited from his scholarships would go on to improve the lot of mankind, and work towards maintaining peace between nations.

“The Rhodes Scholarship is given based on:

• literary and scholastic attainments

• energy to use one's talents to the full, as exemplified by fondness and success in sports

• truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness, and fellowship

• moral force of character and instincts to lead, and to take an interest in one's fellow beings.

“Two Rhodes Scholarships are offered to Caribbean nationals each year; one specifically for Jamaicans and one that is open to the entire Caribbean (Jamaica included).

Rhodes left money in his will for the scholarships which have benefited large numbers of people the world over, including at least one Jamaican almost every year since 1904 when it was established.

There is little evidence that the British benefactor regretted his wrongs against Africa and had wanted the scholarships in his name to go to black people, as the Rhodes Trust was set up five years after his death.

Very appropriately, the Jamaican Rhodes scholars, all outstanding men who were quoted by this newspaper, have agreed that Rhodes' statue at Oxford University in Britain should be taken down and put in a museum, even while they acknowledged the undisputed benefits.

We agree with them.

In the rarefied atmosphere of a museum information can be provided that covers the life and times of the man so that a balanced account can be given, and not just the sugar-coated version presented by The UWI.

Better is expected of The UWI.


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