Amidst Opposition warnings that the tertiary education of thousands of Barbadians remains in jeopardy, the Ministry of Education is today promising clarity on the issue.
In a statement issued today, Shadow Minister of Education, Edmund Hinkson said the Government continues to break its promises to put adequate financing arrangements in place for students who need assistance paying tuition fees at the University of the West Indies.
But Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education Laurie King informed Barbados TODAY this afternoon that the relevant information would be made available to the country by tomorrow. King declined to say any more on the matter.
However, a brief statement from the Government Information Service (GIS) this evening indicated that application forms for bursaries will be available from tomorrow at the Examinations Section of the ministry.
Minister Ronald Jones was unavailable for comment.
In his statement, though, Hinkson said: “The latest episode of this woeful saga is the failure by Education Minister Ronald Jones to ensure that his ministry is in a position to process applications for the 3,000 bursaries which he, on the 11th of this month, stated would be launched in two weeks’ time to help those financially challenged citizens who were already attending one of the three UWI campuses who wished to enter for the first time.”
The Opposition spokesman on education noted that on that occasion, Jones revealed that the bursary arrangements had already been agreed to, and that he was clearing up some of the “noise and mischief” circulating on the matter of paying tuition fees.
“However, both current and potential students of our three campuses continue to be clueless as to how they can even apply for a bursary,” he added.
Hinkson claimed that there are was no announcement of criteria or how the process for the selection of recipients would be conducted.
Additionally, the MP said, no indication had been given about who would be entitled to full bursaries, partial bursaries, how many of the declared 3,000 bursaries would be given in this coming academic year and to which faculty’s students.
“We do not know whether persons with disabilities and others who make up the most vulnerable segment of our society would be given preference in applying. We do not know whether potential students need to first apply for a loan before they can be eligible for a bursary,” the Opposition MP for St James North observed.
He said it was not known whether the selection process would be saddled with political considerations, with supporters of the governing party as well as relatives and friends of ruling Democratic Labour Party politicians having a distinct advantage in accessing these bursaries.
“I myself, incognito, contacted the Education Ministry last Friday and could obtain no response from any official on any of these queries. Has Minister Jones, under public pressure in yet another knee-jerk response . . . proclaimed an initiative without the finances being in place to fund it?” he asked.
“This political administration has created so much uncertainty over the funding by students of their tuition fees, whether on the issue of the student revolving loan funding, Government granted bursaries and otherwise, that over 40 per cent of the present students are today uncertain about whether they will be able to continue their courses,” Hinkson claimed.
The Shadow Minister of Education also suggested that there was now a 50 per cent decline in new applications to enter the UWI for the first time.
Registration for the new academic year will begin in three weeks.