Even with the new academic year already in train, nearly 1,700 applicants are still waiting to hear whether they will get the Government bursaries they need to help pay their tuition fees at the University of the West Indies (UWI).
And Minister of Education Ronald Jones has indicated he cannot tell them exactly when they will find out if their applications were successful or when they will get the funds.
He insisted last night that the process of determining who would get the financial aid should be allowed to work, even as he blasted the media’s coverage on the matter, describing it as “noxious”.
Government had promised to provide 3,000 bursaries, on the heels of its decision to stop paying tuition fees for Barbadian students at UWI starting this month.
“That process is being worked through. I’ve said we had 1,695 applications and, sad to say, it took a while because the applications closed on August 12. I would have loved them to have started in June so we would have had time to really work through it and if you needed money, to say to the Ministry of Finance ‘I need an extra million, I need an extra $500,000 or I need an extra $250 to help the vulnerable’ . . . . I’m not out to lie,” Jones said.
The minister said students could be assured that they would be assisted, once the bursaries have been approved.
“You can’t beat me to the ground because you want it [to] work faster than it is working. We’ve been working reasonably well with the University of the West Indies, particularly at Cave Hill [Campus], to make sure that once persons are in, and we’ve identified their names, that person gets a bursary and we will go through that process and notify you once a few things are put place,” he stated.
“Why you running me down every time you see me? . . . . Come on!”
Jones acknowledged that he was not happy Government was unable to iron out the kinks related to its decision to stop paying tuition fees for Barbadians studying at Cave Hill Campus, earlier.
At the same time, the minister contended that some students had failed to make any financial preparations for themselves.
“If there is any criticism to make, and I would accept it, is that we took a little too long to work through many of the difficulties. But if anybody believed that the difficulties would have been resolved in one year, something wrong with them too,” he said.
“Some people did not make any provisions at all to put in place any structure or any system. There are persons who are still, even now, coming to the Student Revolving [Loan Fund] to get a loan. We don’t have inexhaustible funds in Student Revolving [Loan Fund] but we are managing and trying to roll out the loans at fast as we can.”
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