Students of the University of the West Indies who have to pay thousands of dollars in tuition fees, come September, or be obliged to withdraw from the institution, now have a new option to consider.
A small group of United States and Barbados businesses have come together to launch a compelling global initiative and fund-raising campaign, designed to empower university students to “earn” the funds they need to pay their tuition fees, working online and/or offline as sales and marketing affiliates for various commercial services.
Called Operation: TuitionPay, or OTP, the initiative, which officially began today, July 15, is not just for student participation. The idea is for all citizens and businesses to proactively support the initiative and to help promote it internationally via email and social media.
“We’ve created a sound structure through which UWI alumni worldwide, the Caribbean diaspora, and, ultimately, total strangers can all come together and play their part in a global effort to save thousands of Caribbean UWI students from either being forced to drop out, or endure major financial hardship that can negatively impact their ability to perform optimally in their studies,” said Robin Belle of Caribbean Interactive Media, one of the corporate facilitators responsible for the technology aspects of the initiative.
The primary service which the students will be marketing/selling is a world-class mobile marketing platform one that plays to the great affinity the youth have with mobile technology.
“There is no question that today’s consumers have fully embraced smartphones and tablets and want access to business-related information while on the go. Consumers don’t care to wait till they are back in the office, or at home, to find out where is the nearest laundry or health food deli, so GPS mobile technology empowers the consumer and makes businesses more accessible,” says Belle.
Seventy per cent of the revenue generated from sales of the service by students goes into a special tuition fund set up at Prudential Co-operative Credit Union Ltd, another corporate facilitator of the OTP initiative. Mr Oriel Doyle, treasurer of PCCUL, stated: “In conjunction with the accounting firm Office Express Inc., we are providing the financial fund facility and accounting transparency/oversight for the OTP initiative to ensure the local business community that when they purchase the mobile service to support the students, the students will receive the designated financial benefit as intended.”
An official website for the initiative has been created, as well as a separate site where students will be able to access sales and marketing materials and obtain guidance on how to promote/market the service to business in and outside of Barbados.
Legal counsel for the initiative, attorney-at-law Leslie Roberts, noted: “We are inviting companies in Barbados to not just buy a subscription to assist a handful of students, but to come forward and exercise corporate social responsibility by sponsoring the initiative, so that it can be more effectively promoted locally and regionally, to reach the thousands of UWI students who need help.”
The organizers of the initiative commend the commercial banks for offering loan facilities and the Government for its offer of 3,000 bursaries, but believe that the community at large should play a part in averting the economic crisis faced by the students. They hold the view that the students, too, should be empowered to help themselves in this situation and not rely totally on being “handed” the money through loans and bursaries; so the initiative provides students with the opportunity and means to service any loans obtained, or to supplement what they obtain through bursaries.
“The initiative also seeks to change the thinking of the students from seeing themselves as ‘victims of circumstance’ and help them to realize that great adversity is typically great opportunity in disguise and, as such, represents an excellent opportunity for them to grow as individuals and to achieve things, which they never thought they could at this stage of their lives, to become ‘victors of circumstance’ instead,” said Belle.
It should be noted that while the primary focus of the initiative is to economically empower the students and ensure the continuation of their university education, the initiative has been specifically designed to benefit the economy of Barbados on an ongoing basis, generating significant inflows of much needed foreign exchange, providing extensive international promotion of Barbados as a tourist destination and entrepreneurial centre, and preparing local businesses to meet the needs of a new generation of “technology-oriented and savvy” visitors, who are looking for destinations that facilitate widespread, “on-demand” mobile internet/information access and mobile commerce transactions. Through this initiative, therefore, university students will lead the “mobilization” of Barbados’ commercial sectors, especially the tourism sector.
UWI students who wish to take advantage of the initiative, and earning opportunity it offers, are asked to sign up on the official website at www.OTP-INITIATIVE.info. An orientation session for UWI students, who register on the website to participate in the initiative, will be held over the coming weekend. The venue and time will be communicated by email to the students who register online.
Companies willing to consider sponsoring the initiative are asked to review the Sponsors section of the official website first, then get in touch with the organizers at 246-838-9661, 246- 836-7235 or on [email protected].
The general public, UWI alumni, Caribbean diaspora and well-wishers worldwide are also asked to sign up as supporters on the official website and to use the tools provided therein to help promote the initiative.