A cloud of doubt hangs over the return of more than 1,000 students at the University of West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill Campus with the second semester set to begin next Monday.
President of the UWI Guild of Students at Cave Hill Damani Parris told Barbados TODAY that the student body could be dealt a significant blow as many of the students were only admitted last semester pending the distribution of promised bursaries.
After Government’s decision to stop paying tuition fees for Barbadian students took effect last September, Minister of Education Ronald Jones had promised that about 3,000 bursaries would be provided to help students pay their fees, while approximately 2, 500 first-year students would benefit from loans under the Student Revolving Loan Scheme.
However, Parris told Barbados TODAY that even as registration opened this week for the start of the semester, the bursaries had still not materialized.
Jones has declined to speak to the issue.
Parris said he had lost all confidence in the Government as a result, admitting that since the announcement of the promised bursaries last July, the guild had taken a “cautious approach”.
He charged that the promise of bursaries “seemed to be a move to try to shut down the conversation” surrounding the introduction of tuition fees.
“We were optimistic and thankful that the ministry was going to explore that option. But the fact that we are still waiting on the bursaries and there still seems to be some situation surrounding the bursaries as it relates to them being actually issued, is very frustrating,” Parris said.
“Definitely the student body will be taking a significant hit in the second semester because many of them were admitted pending the actual approval and distribution of those bursaries. What I am looking at now is a situation where, because of the fact that we had about 1,600 or so students depending on those bursaries, [there could be a significant decline] in terms of registration in the second semester.
“The student body itself is disappointed. I, as the representative, am disappointed. I have since lost confidence in the Government of Barbados at this point,” Parris lamented.
The youth leader, whose term as president will expire on March 31, 2015, said before his term ended he would be writing the Minister of Education, the Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler and Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to express his “deep-seated concern about what appears to be an abandonment of education in the country and an abandonment of the youth of the country”.
Since the delay in grating the bursaries the guild had issued several statements venting frustration and concerns for the students who have been unable to afford the tuition fees.