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Scholars still a secret

Education Minister Dr. Tim Gopeesingh

PORT OF SPAIN – Five days after Education Minister Dr. Tim Gopeesingh announced which schools would receive national scholarships, the list of winners is yet to be released to the media.

Last year, the ministry released the names of the 348 pupils who had excelled at the CAPE along with the names of the two President’s Medal winners at the same time.

This year, Gopeesingh announced the names of the two President’s Medal winners, as well as which schools had won while addressing more than 800 pupils at the “National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving for Schools” at the Centre of Excellence in Macoya last Friday.

When the Express requested a copy of the list yesterday from Yolanda Morales-Carvalho, media relations co-ordinator at the ministry, she said was she “not authorised to release the master list”.

When the Express contacted Gopeesingh via text message, he said he would “provide (it) tomorrow (today) if legal advice indicates”.

Asked why the legal department needed to approve the list for distribution considering that the schools were already fully aware of who won what, Gopeesingh said there were “privacy laws to be checked”.

Commenting on the issue, former education minister Esther Le Gendre said she saw no reason for the delay as the schools have already received their list of winners.

“While I am not certain of the process used by this current administration, I can say that under the previous administration, we followed a careful and predictable process which involved the sitting of a scholarship committee which reviewed raw material received from CXC and determined the award of scholarships according to pre-established criteria with which both school and student were familiar.”

And “in the past the ministry was always careful to maintain the public trust through a speedy and transparent process,” she said.

La Gendre further added that awardees and their schools were usually given the courtesy of the scholarship information prior to its publication.

“The issue of privacy in relation to the publication of awards has not arisen in the past, especially since these are awards to nationals, and are paid for by the State,” she said.

“The fact that the public is uneasy about the process this year is perhaps testimony to the general atmosphere of mistrust that pervades. One hopes that those responsible will bring an end soon to unnecessary speculation in the interest of all the young hopefuls awaiting information on the awards,” she said.

This year, Marcus Isaac Belasco of Naparima College, San Fernando, and Brad Bachu of Presentation College, Chaguanas, were the joint recipients of the President’s Medal.

Belasco was the top performing pupil in the grouping of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Environmental Studies, and Bachu was the top performer in the combination of Business, Languages, Modern Studies, Technical Studies, Technological Studies, Visual and Performing Arts and General Studies.

The boys are a fraction of the 372 pupils who were awarded scholarships–in ten subject groups ranging from Business, Environmental Science, Languages, Mathematics, Modern Studies/Humanities, Natural Sciences, Technical Studies, Technological Studies, General Studies and Visual and Performing Arts–from 40 secondary schools across Trinidad and Tobago this year, an increase of 28 from 2011. (Express)

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