PORT OF SPAIN – The Ministry of Education is being urged to pay almost 500 nursing students who have not been receiving their monthly stipend of $800, for more than a year.
Clad in their uniforms and armed with placards, dozens of students of the University of the Southern Caribbean (USC) yesterday staged a mid-morning protest in front the Ministry of Education’s office in Port-of-Spain as they demanded the settlement of outstanding monies.
Advocating on behalf of the students, Stacy Mahabal explained that they embarked on the action after receiving no communication on the issue from the ministry.
Mahabal said, “We want some redress in the matter because it has been over a year. It has been a long time and no one is coming to us to say if we are going to get it, if it would be in portions or anything.”
She said the stipend was important as it enabled students to access the requisite training conducted at the various health centres and hospitals across T&T.
Mahabal added, “It is a necessity because as a full time nursing student, you can not hold down a job.”
President of the T&T Registered Nurses Association (TTRNA), Idi Stuart, who accompanied the student nurses, endorsed their concerns as he said, “I want to reiterate that the students play an important part in nursing, due to the fact that there is a shortage of nurses in all regional health authorities. It is the students that take up the slack, so they actually work alongside the nurses.”
Stuart also claimed that the stipend was small compared to other costs associated with health care.
“A consultant’s salary can pay all these students here.
That is to tell you how minuscule the amount is and yet, they are still unwilling to pay,” he continued.
He if the matter is not addressed by Education Minister Anthony Garcia by today, the students will be joined by nurses for another protest.
Contacted yesterday, Garcia said he was unable to meet with the students as they had already left the ministry prior to his arrival.
He explained that the stipend was originally paid by the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago (Costaatt), when it ran the programme in conjunction with the USC.
Garcia said a decision was taken during the latter half of 2016 for his ministry to pick up the slack as Costaatt could no longer afford to shoulder the financial responsibility. He was unable to say if this was because Costaatt had also introduced its own nursing programme.