The Barbados Labour Party is calling on Minister of Education Ronald Jones to resign. Failing that, the Opposition wants Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to kick him out of the Cabinet.
Shadow Minister of Education Edmund Hinkson has accused Jones of being unreliable in his recent pronouncements, particularly “in dashing the hopes” of hundreds of University of the West Indies (UWI) students by so far not fulfilling his promises of bursaries to help them pay their tuition fees.
“The citizens of any democratic country must be able to believe, rely and act on the words and public undertakings of a Cabinet minister. They must be able to plan their everyday lives and future, based on the statements and promises made by any member of the highest executive body in the nation,” said the Opposition spokesman on education during a press conference today.
“Events over the last six months have clearly demonstrated that Barbadians, whether students, their parents or the general public, have found it next to impossible to hold sacred the public pronouncements of this minister as they relate to the funding of University of the West Indies’ onerous tuition fees of financially challenged students,” he added.
Over the weekend, it was reported in another section of the Press that the Ministry of Finance had informed the Ministry of Education that it could not provide the funds for the bursaries.
However, Senator Harry Husbands, who is Acting Minister of Education while Jones is overseas, told reporters yesterday that the bursaries would be delivered, although delayed. He said the processing of the applications have been completed and the final determination on the successful applicants would be made “in the not too distant future”.
While students wait, Hinkson said, Jones had left the island yesterday on a 10-day, first-class trip to China, presumably funded by the taxpayers of this country.
“This, when hundreds of the declining numbers of UWI students do not know how they will pay the next due monthly installment on their tuition fees and are now, in the continued absence of the promised bursaries, seriously contemplating their future education,” he said.
“Minister Jones has, in our opinion, failed to meet the expected standard of ministerial conduct such that citizens affected can reasonably plan their affairs and future.”
Hinkson recalled that on April 15 this year, Minister Jones publicly announced that his ministry would be providing a substantial number of bursaries so that no eligible Barbadian student would be disadvantaged from attending the UWI.
“Nothing further was then heard on the issue of the grant of any bursaries to any UWI student from either Minister Jones or from any high-ranking education official for three months. This minister, on July 11 at the plaque ceremony inaugurating the UWI Chinese Confucius Institute, then announced that ‘in the first few years, we will do some 3,000 bursaries to help these UWI students with challenges’,” Hinkson said.
He pointed out that Jones had informed the public that the bursaries would be made available to Barbadians students at the Cave Hill, Mona and St Augustine campuses of the UWI a few weeks later.
“Furthermore, Minister Jones publicly stated that they would cover about 50 per cent of the successful students’ total tuition costs,” Hinkson added.
“Weeks have passed since then and the first UWI semester is almost midway in duration.”
Hinkson also pointed out that Barbadian students at the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad and Tobago were told on arrival last month that they would have to pay their own tuition fees, contrary to Jones’ public assurances on July 11.
He said Jones was no longer capable of engendering any feelings of hope for the future of the youth in this country and the public could no longer have any confidence in him in his capacity.
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