THE EDITOR, Sir:
It is baffling that the University of the West Indies student body is celebrating the Government’s short-term solution of offering $300 million to final-year students being barred from sitting final exams. But I ask while the proposed bailout is much needed and graciously welcome, can we expect the Government to bail out final-year students every academic year? If the answer to that question is yes, let’s celebrate this accomplishment and give credit where credit is due and praise the JLP for answering the prayers of present and future UWI students.
If, however, the answer is no, I suggest we focus on the bigger picture and seek to find a long-term solution to this problem that has been plaguing students of the UWI for far too long.
The UWI is developing a track record for demonstrating that money trumps student welfare at the institution. In fairness, I agree that students should pay what is owed. However, the point at which the administration demands this payment clearly shows that the institution is more concerned with dollars and cents than it is with student advancement and development.
The cost to final-year students who aren’t allowed to sit exams because of outstanding fees greatly exceeds the actual figure owed to the university. Many of these students already have huge loans accumulating interest, and a delay in completion of their degree means delaying the chance for students to earn money – at least at the rate of a person with a degree, it means delaying when they begin to repay their loans and having to pay even greater interest on these loans.
A common consideration among many final-year students is to go on the travel-work programme and earn money to finish paying their tuition before graduation. The problem here is that the UWI has not taken this factor into consideration, and rather than withholding students’ transcripts or certificates, it chooses instead to act in a way that is detrimental to students.
The UWI’s solution to this problem is equivalent to wringing the hands of their impoverished students behind their backs while pressing them against a barbed-wire fence ensuring that they feel immense pain for even daring to owe the region’s premier learning institution.
So while the student body rejoices in this supposed win, the real winner is the UWI’s administration, which is now perched on a glorious throne, unconcerned about which students will benefit from the bailout, but resting assured that its bank accounts will definitely look healthier in the next couple weeks.
Don’t get me wrong, we applaud the Government for stepping in, but its involvement is putting a pretty bandage on a rotting sore. The system used to recover funds from students at the UWI is inherently flawed and there is the need for a better system to be established.
Akeela N. Marin
President, UWI Mona Debating and Public Speaking Society
The published article can be found here: The Gleaner