Karim calls on gov't to honour its contractual obligation to national scholarship winners

Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - 07:15
Former Tertiary Education Minister and Chaguanas East MP Fazal Karim is calling on the Government to honour its contractual obligation to national scholarship winners studying medicine at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus in Jamaica. 
Karim, who spoke to Guardian Media, said the “crass and callous treatment meted out to our nation’s top academic performers is unforgivable.” 
Karim explained that the scholarship agreement specifies that one of the obligations of the Government is to pay the tuition or part-tuition and other compulsory fees and all applicable allowances for the scholar.
“But instead the Government is providing no and late funding to national scholars and therefore was failing to complete a routine and rudimentary task.
The Government would attempt to absolve itself of any responsibility through legal gymnastics but it is pellucid that the ad hoc changes to the scholarship process were symptomatic of a delusional Government,” Karim said.
A notice was issued by the Scholarships and Advanced Training Division on September 17, 2018 advising that scholars who were accepted by the UWI, St. Augustine or placed on a one year academic deferral by the St Augustine Campus but opted to pursue studies at the UWI, Mona or Cave Hill Campuses would only benefit from tuition and compulsory fees equivalent to costs at the UWI, St. Augustine Campus. 
Karim said the Rowley-led Government had butchered the GATE programme and introduced in the 2017 budget a cap on non-medical studies at regional campuses of The UWI, to the equivalent level of funding at the St Augustine Campus. 
However, Karim said the cap on regional studies under the GATE programme was not applied to medical studies and demonstrated policy incongruence between the scholarship and GATE programmes.
The former minister also took to task the “very tardy and inconsiderate notice” issued by the Scholarships and Advanced Training Division saying “this confirms yet again that the Rowley-led Government simply does not understand education and training.”
The UWI, Mona Campus required acceptance by August 26, 2018, along with a non-refundable commitment fee of $20,000 Jamaican dollars whereas The UWI, St Augustine Campus provided notification of acceptance on September 12, 2018. 
“Some students would have therefore applied and been accepted at Mona prior to receiving the notice from the Scholarship and Advanced Training Division on September 17, 2018. Students who had opted to enroll in the medical programme at Mona would have therefore been bound financially and otherwise,” Karim said.
Karim said the Rowley-led Government has “systematically and deliberately cut scholarships” from over $200 million in fiscal 2015 to an estimated $175 million in fiscal 2019. 
“The distress and humiliation suffered by our future doctors on scholarship at The UWI Mona Campus are unacceptable and that the non-payment of fees will lead to holds on academic accounts and place undue stress on our nation’s foremost thinkers.
From all indications, the Rowley-led Government appears to have a penchant for depriving our citizenry of basic human rights – education, health care, employment, and the list goes on,” Karim said.
On Monday, Guardian Media published that six additional scholarship students who are currently in Jamaica studying medicine have all vowed to explore their legal options if the T&T Government refuses to pay their respective fees as initially promised.
The students claim that they are confused as to why they are being told to give up their respective scholarship and accept GATE, which is the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses Programme.
Parents have petitioned the Education Minister, Anthony Garcia, to reconsider the decision to not pay the full tuition fees for additional scholars studying at the UWI Mona Campus Jamaica.