More than 30 Barbadian students stuck at UWI Mona in Jamaica have joined a growing list of regional students hoping to hitch a ride home on a flight stopping in Barbados and Jamaica before taking Trinidadian students to Port of Spain.
The students are hoping the flight leaving Port of Spain will come directly to Kingston and take them to Barbados where Trinidadian students at Cave Hill will board the flight bound for Trinidad.
If successful, the Barbadian bid could derail the efforts of Jamaican students here, who want the flight from Port of Spain to first stop in Barbados and take them to Jamaica before returning to Trinidad.
While the Barbadian students are not experiencing major financial hardship, many are said to be living all alone on separate floors of their respective halls of residence and longing to return home despite Kingston’s border closures and cancelled CAL flights.
Barbados’ Honorary Consul in Kingston, Winston Bayley told Barbados TODAY he has been in continuous discussions with Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw, President of the Barbados Students’ Association Jamaica (BSAJ) Daniel Clarke-WhiteHall and Trinidad’s High Commissioner in Kingston Deryk Murray.
“We have heard of the intention of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to take some students early next month. The High Commissioner [of Trinidad and Tobago in Kingston] verified this in Jamaica and that is still on, but it is still in the early stages and details need to first be ironed out,” Barbados’ Consul General revealed.
“[Trinidadian officials] have also indicated that they could try to accommodate the Barbadian students, but I don’t have anything more specific at this time,” Bayley added.
Barbados TODAY’s most recent checks indicate that Jamaican authorities have not yet received confirmation from Port of Spain.
A list of stranded Barbadian students being compiled by the Consul General’s office now stands at approximately 20 people. Checks with students, however, indicate that as many as 31 are desirous of fleeing the northern caribbean country.
“In the best of times, the campus can become a rather lonesome place when Jamaicans go off, even during normal vacation periods. Some of the students have entire floors to themselves on the halls of residence and perhaps that is good for physical distancing. There are no hardships per se, just a longing to go home,” Bayley explained.
Aria Goodridge, a 19-year-old student at Mona in a letter obtained by Barbados TODAY indicated that unlike over 100 students, she did not flee Kingston for Bridgetown due to uncertainty about whether face-to-face classes would resume after the month-long semester break that ended on April 14 amid coronavirus fears.
“My courses are based heavily on labs, so I decided to get confirmation from my department on how this would be done. UWI Mona [advised] the Jamaican students to leave the campus and go home, but they never addressed the regional students directly,” she disclosed.
“Since UWI Mona indicated there was a chance of returning to face-to-face on April 14, I did not rush to get home but tried to confirm what would happen in terms of my labs. I received confirmation on March 20th, 2020, and booked my flight immediately for the March 23rd with CAL (note there are only two flights out each week),” Bailey added.
However, at 11:59 a.m. on March 21, Jamaica closed its borders suddenly, forcing CAL to cancel flights. Since then, Bailey has been racking up cancellation fees after booking new flights which showed up on CAL’s website but were later cancelled.
“This honestly has been very frustrating,” the 19-year-old admitted, before expressing hope about the most recent developments.
“It should not be an unreasonable request for the Barbadians to be allowed on the flight as the plane is coming to Jamaica and stopping in Barbados; we can be dropped off in the process especially since regionalism exists and because UWI is a regional institution,” Aria added.
Meanwhile, her mother, Sasha Goodridge expressed dismay at the absence of concrete information about the Barbadian students as Antiguans, Vincentians, and Trinidad and Tobago Governments made plans for the repatriation of their students.
“I don’t know if there are words to express how I feel. I am disappointed at UWI [Mona] not considering foreign students… this entire saga could have been avoided with better communication,” she told Barbados TODAY.
“We always talk about regional integration and CARICOM unity. Why couldn’t the three campuses put together a plan for all foreign students at all the campuses? Why were messages only sent to the Jamaican students telling them to go home and leaving the foreign students to ask about their classes, their labs, and if it made any sense leaving?” asked the frustrated mother.
“I know we speak about Caribbean unity but in this situation, I certainly don’t see it,” she added.
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