The Hospitality Institute of the Barbados Community College (BCC) is running out of money to help students who have been hit hard by the country’s economic challenges.
Deputy Principal Dr Cheryl Weekes today revealed that a contingency fund established some years ago was drying up, making it difficult for the hotel training school to assist students who were struggling to meet some very basic needs.
“We do have some students who are struggling even though there is no tuition cost at this time. You would imagine you as a parent want to have your child study but you are struggling paying the bills. Even though it may only be $400 a year, finding that money for some students is difficult,” Weekes told journalists following the launch of annual culinary tourism scholarships of $2,500 each by the Barbados Tourism Product Authority, which will be awarded to two students of the institute.
“Throughout the years we would have had . . . a contingency fund that we were able to assist some students who were having financial difficulties. But that fund is almost at zero. So really we need corporate Barbados to come on board and offer these scholarships, offer funding that we can help these students, our young people who really want to develop themselves but financially they are not able.”
In addition to the annual $400 fee for registration and other dues to attend the Christ Church learning institution located at the Hotel PomMarine, students are also required to buy uniforms and other relevant materials for their studies, which range from a three-week certificate course to a two-year associate degree programme.
The deputy principal could not immediately say how many students required financial assistance each year.
However, she said there were times when some students could not even afford the bus fare to school, stressing that the current economic environment was not helping.
Over the years contribution to the fund came from fees, as well as scholarships or subsidies from donors for specific divisions.
Weekes said the ideal situation would be to have a “consistent injection into the fund so that on an annual basis we can really give assistance to the number of students who need assistance.
“Sometimes it means that a student doesn’t come to class because they don’t have bus fare or because they don’t have lunch money. So we really want to make sure that once they are in our programmes . . . that every obstacle that prevents them from developing and succeeding we would like to mitigate,” she said.
The hotel school accepts about 250 new students each year for the full-time courses. And despite the financial challenges the quality of teaching or enrolment had not been affected, the school administrator said.
“The financial challenges that we are experiencing really have not been in any way translated into a reduction in a number of students. We have managed in a miraculous way I would say, to do all that we are doing with the little that we get, and we are very appreciative of it,” she said.
Agreeing that the learning facility had outgrown its current location, Weekes said the school was about to embark on an expansion project in an effort to accommodate more students, but she was keeping the details close to her chest.
“There is a plan to have an expansion done here at the institute so that we would be able to accommodate more students . . . I am unable to say how soon. Of course the timeframe would really be dependent on receiving the funding to start the work. So that is where the limitation would be, but definitely there is a plan for an expansion,” she said.