Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 5th 2017 Contents 4 UWI TODAY -- SUNDAY 5 NOVEMBER, 2017
e year was 1963 and Trinidad and Tobago was a very
young nation, barely a year old. Young as well was e
University of the West Indies and its St. Augustine Campus,
an independent university for a newly independent region.
And youngest of all was the College of Arts and Sciences.
Created in 1963, the College was the origin point for
the study of arts, social sciences and the natural sciences at
St. Augustine. e pioneering work of its sta and pupils
laid the foundation for an edi ce that today includes three
faculties, thousands of students and leaders in the arts and
But the College's beginnings were quite humble:
"As in any rst batch in a edgling university there
were many challenges," says Mr. Ramganie Bob Gopee. He
knows those challenges well. Mr. Gopee was among that
rst batch of students, about 20 in total, who made up the
student body of the new College. e challenges did not
bother him then and they certainly do not bother him now.
"I feel privileged," he says, "to have attended UWI. I
feel that I was a part of the seed that grew into the Faculty
of Arts and Sciences."
Mr. Gopee is a professional accountant, auditor and
businessman. He is the founder of the accounting rm, Bob
Gopee and Associates, is an author of several books and
has business interests in the tourism industry, including the
well-known Par-May-La Inn in Woodbrook, Port of Spain.
At 78, he is incredibly agile, in frame and wit.
"Although I'm this age, I'm still not a retiree," he says.
"I love what I'm doing and when you work for yourself it's
not likely you will retire."
It's an expression of the gentlemanly dynamism that
characterised the tail end of the colonial era and powered
the development of institutions such as e UWI.
Joel Henry is a writer and editor.
" ey were shining lights. We were blessed to have
them teaching us," Mr. Gopee says.
e strength of the personnel helped with the limits
of the resources:
"In those days we did not have full access to the library.
We had to go very early before the students (from other
faculties) would come. Classes were the same. We had to
use an engineering classroom or biology classroom when
they were free."
Like many of his fellow students, Mr. Gopee came from
a modest background. Raised in Chatham in Cedros, he
came from a family of farmers. Farming was "hard work
with poor remuneration" he says, but the experience taught
him resilience, a lesson that came in handy as a student. O
campus he rented a house with ve other students. Among
them was Dr. Morgan Job.
"When we were not studying we played sports --
football, volleyball and table tennis," Gopee remembers
fondly. "But there was little time we were not studying. And
when we were not studying we were cooking or washing
clothes. We didn't see it as drudgery. We enjoyed it. ere
were times, going to campus at four in the morning to nd
an empty class to study, we would sing 'Onward Christian
Soldiers'. We were on a mission."
at mission has helped them forge bonds of friendship
that last to this day. Every January they have a gathering at
Mr. Gopee's home.
"I believe we turned out well. We have positioned
ourselves in several places in T&T," he says modestly.
Among that rst graduating class are academics, writers,
educators, policymakers and businesspeople. Apart from
his professional success Mr. Gopee, a devout Hindu, gives
back to his community by o ering awards to top performing
elementary school students in academics, sports and
culture. is past September he gave over 40 awards at a
gathering of upwards of 200 guests in Cedros.
"Although I've made a good living in my life I know
where I come from and am thankful for every opportunity
that has been given to me," he says.
At one point in time, education, even at the secondary
level, was a rare opportunity for personal and nancial
growth. In 1960 there were 67 students at St. Augustine.
Today there are close to 18,000. With education now in
abundance, Mr. Gopee recognises a change in the attitudes
of students and new graduates.
"I feel sad when I see some of the products that
come out of university," he says. "As an employer I am
hesitant to hire someone who, fresh out of university with
no experience, wants a big position and salary. ere is
a tremendous di erence between education and work
He believes e UWI has a critical role in interfacing
with the private sector through programmes such as
internships, to better prepare students for their professional
Nevertheless, Mr. Gopee is proud to have played a role
in the development of what has become one of Trinidad and
the region's most important institutions. Now if only we can
recover the spirit of gentle dynamism that made it possible.
A student of the College of Arts and Sciences
recalls what it was like at the beginning
BY JOEL HENRY
In 1962, UWI St. Augustine consisted of the Faculty
of Agriculture (the descendant of the Imperial College of
Tropical Agriculture that had operated since 1922) and the
Faculty of Engineering. is was not enough for those with
ideals for the development of higher education in Trinidad
and Tobago. With little in terms of resources and facilities,
the College of Arts and Sciences was established.
"It was very pleasing and fortunate that the (College)
was started. Neither I nor my family had the resources for
me to go abroad and study so this was my chance to pursue
further education," Mr. Gopee remembers.
He remembers also the drive to succeed shared by
both the lecturers and students, 40 per cent of whom were
"We studied very hard and we received immense
support from the professors. They had a very heavy
commitment for it to work. I think that kind of commitment
was contagious. We also felt it."
Among their teachers were giants of Caribbean life
such as Sir Alister McIntyre, Lloyd Braithwaite, Dom Basil
Matthews and Dr. Roy omas.
e ceremony of 1966, when Mr. Gopee (above) graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences. PHOTO: ALMA JORDAN LIBRARY
Links Archive November 4th 2017 November 6th 2017 Navigation Previous Page Next Page