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UWI students cry out for help in the face of fees

by Donna Sealy

President of the Guild of Students Damani Parris.

President of the Guild of Students Damani Parris.

A growing and worrying number of Barbadian students attending the University of West Indies, Cave Hill Campus are turning to their guild for “welfare” assistance.

President of the Guild Damani Parris told Barbados TODAY that during the last semester there were requests from several students, some of whom were so badly off financially they were asking for bus fare to get to school, and money to buy meals and books.

The student representative could find no record of Bajans attending the university being in such strife in the past, and feared that if Government went ahead with making these individuals pay their own tuition fees next year the numbers would surge.

“Traditionally, the Guild is not primarily responsible for welfare but we noticed that the requests from Barbadian students were for the first time registering in terms of percentage of students requesting welfare and because Barbadians are the primary group at the Cave hill campus, we were becoming very concerned about the trend when a number of them began to make [requests] because of things like they’re not eating, they can’t afford to buy books, they can’t afford to get here on a daily basis,” a worried Parris said today.

“I thought that was very concerning and when their requests came in it was essentially that the university was putting them or their families under so much strain that they could not continue without the assistance from the Guild and this put [us] in the position where we had to approve them for the first time,” he said.

Parris noted that while it was not unusual for non-Barbadians to make requests, it certainly was for Barbadians.

He added that even though they were enrolled and trying to write their exams, they were “receiving that financial pressure at home that meant the difference between coming up here on a daily basis or staying home”.
uwifeesmiaandThe students, he said, also had to opt between attending classes and going hungry while there or staying home to have a meal. They were therefore forced to make decisions that were detrimental to their educational pursuits.

The President added that Government seemingly failed to fully understand the impact of the new policy given that “many of the students were already in financial dire straits”.

His initial disclosure came during the town hall meeting last night while he was addressing the audience attending the Guild’s town hall meeting in the Roy Marshall Teaching Complex.

It was then that he noted for the first time in “the history written in the Guild” at the UWI, there were “not one, not two but multiple” welfare requests from Barbadians.

Regarding the controversial university tuition fees policy, veteran trade unionist Sir Roy Trotman is being called on to “mediate”.

This afternoon, the 20-year-old Political Science student told Barbados TODAY the letter would be sent off to the “very experienced” labour boss for action as he felt it necessary that the matter be discussed in a rational manner as he implored the Government to meet with the Guild.

“We are asking him to lend an ear as we attempt to ensure that the student body is well represented. The student body has been making solid demands that the University of the West Indies and the Ministry of Education as well as other stake holders involved in this activity, do sit down with the general student body before anything else is taken forward.

“So the Guild has taken the position that it will request the various stakeholders to sit down with the student body. The student government will hopefully be allowed to mediate under … Sir Roy Trotman who we will be sending this letter too and request that we can therefore bring a solid resolution that is beneficial to all to this particular manner,” he said this afternoon.

uwifeesstudentgesturesIt was last night before a sizeable audience that the fired up president vowed that the controversial tuition policy decision, announced during last Wednesday’s Budgetary proposals by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, would not be implemented.

“I will ask him to come and mediate this issue as we the student body attempt to sit down with the government of Barbados. He has done it before on behalf of the University of the West Indies … and we‘re asking him to do it again because we need to have some person mediate this issue through.

“I will stand and say it right now; On behalf of every university student who I now represent that this policy will not stand at this country, now, not ever, never! This 20 per cent ladies and gentlemen will not be allowed to stand … and I don’t care what I have to do to get rid of it but it will go away,” he said to rapturous applause.

Earlier in his address, Parris said when he did his research immediately following the Budget, he looked at the implications of the policy and while before he had quoted the “percentages to the people, the potential out fall, the damage that can be done to the public by this policy unfortunately” the public was not getting a clear picture.

Therefore he was “forced to defend” the single parent who has to pay for two students to attend while he/she did as well.

“I am forced to defend the student will be the first graduate in his household with four other siblings and who has to guide his siblings into the understanding that a university education is normal. That is who I have to defend.

“I have to defend that lady who though, she is alone in her household, works to put herself through this educational process by going to work every day to find the $1,000 to pay to the University of the West Indies so that she can get an education. That is who I have to defend.

“So when I am told by the public that I am unfair and I am unreasonable, that I am unjust and malicious, ladies and gentlemen I will continue to defend that student body, because that student body elected me,” he said emphatically.

“… I invite the opposition. I invite the discussion that we need to have around this matter but I need it to be understood clearly that the students I have to defend, the 6,000 plus Barbadians that come to this university, The 80 per cent of them who cannot afford to come, come September 2014 are who I have to defend as long as I am standing here and have breath my lungs, I will defend them because that is what I have to do,” the President said to more applause.

Invitations were sent to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Sinckler who indicated he was out of the county and Minister of Education Ronald Jones who declined but invited them to “a private meeting”.


5 Responses to UWI students cry out for help in the face of fees

  1. Paul Lion Arthur August 23, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    If the discussion is about fees why is Mia there? 1 and 2 if its about fees why are they calling for uwi students to get rid of the DLP government? Seems like the office on Roebuck street is having a membership drive. Don’t be fooled uwi students

  2. University Student August 24, 2013 at 7:58 am

    Clearly Mr. Arthur you did not read the article but merely looked at the pictures and made comment. I suggest that you read the article in its entirety.

  3. UNIVERSITY STUDENT #2 August 24, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    I think we need to take our political biases out of the equation and look at the bigger picture. I am sure there are other ways to save money in this country apart from cutting UWI fees. It is a pity government cant afford to pay for U.W.I but they can fund a David Thompson football tournament. And for the record UWI students are not calling for a change in government we are requesting a change in policy since this one is inefficient

  4. A Blackman August 24, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    I have noted that the President stated that the public was not getting a clear picture of the issue. As a taxpayer with concerns around this issue, I would sure welcome the President putting the case to us on CBC TV. There are many persons like myself who are not students but would like to hear the President speak on this issue. Mr. President see what can be done.

  5. Jepter Lorde August 28, 2013 at 10:57 am

    @ UWI student no.2, the process is by nature political. If you examined your comment carefully you are also being political with the usual rhetoric. This issue and a football competition could hardly be a fair comparison. Successive political parties knowing the model was unsustainable and having the reports to reflect such went after votes on the back of a policy that had run its course. It was convenient, therefore, to sully the legacy of former PM Barrow on the altar of political expediency, largesse and clientelism the usual suspects when investigating the relationship between caribbean political parties and an ignorant electorate. UWI administration also benefitted, an expansive policy means more economic cost payments, which means a larger budget, which means greater consumption not investment. I make this statement on the back of a deepening recession, increases in unemployment, no articulated policy of putting the graduates to work. Economics is about deploying scarce economic resources to their most efficient use, if at the end of this exercise all we have are unemployed youth with an expensive education that have consumed resources with no clear indicator of when the returns will be had then consumption it is and investment it is not. It is the belief of this submission the UWI has used the student body to build out its plant and it will now turn to the international student for its continued survival, sounds familiar? Foreign Direct Investment will replace domestic investment (consumption) to whom do you think future places will go? Future places will go to the student who has the USD or Euro to purchase space. Where does this leave our sons and daughters? my guess is using the domestic currency to engaged in some entrepreneurial activity like drug dealing and gun running (good honest living). Before I leave this point the question has to be asked when was the last time the accounts of the UWI been audited? The Guild has over the years secured a reputation for hosting fetes and carnivals and any other recreational activity involving (smoking), drinking and (playing cards). Countless committees discussing mundane aspects of campus life (how low to cut the grass), significant travel by members to meetings that produce nothing (sounds like the Caribbean heads of government) essentially the next generation of idlers and parasites honing their skills. What is of note is the budget which, to a greater extent, is dependent on the number of students enrolled and has been hinted at topping the million dollar mark. This sounds familiar….UWI administration is dependent on economic costs, UWI Guild is dependent on amenities fees the quantum of both is in turn dependent on the number of students enrolled hence the “one graduate in every household policy” equals substantial budgets from which to spend with no accountability, with no transparency. Can’t leave this point without asking, once again, when was the last time the accounts of the Guild been audited. Finally the student body, this is a little tricky for within this body are a number of contending groups with certain self interest to maintain but at the same time overlap. The majority of the student population is made up of women but women are seen as a minority within the general population and aspects of vulnerability are relevant to the discussion and is borne out by accusations by the general public of students being allowed access to this level of education well pass the expulsion date (some are in the system as long as 10 years) at the expense of the taxpayers (who happen to be men and women). Students have been accused of changing their degree major countless times thus resetting the clock and extracting economic cost from the taxpayer (UWI administration does not mind more changes mean more economic costs paid to UWI). The use of the doctor certificate in an attempt to avoid the taking of an exam thus extending academic life at the expense of additional economic cost is standard operating practice. Statistically it could be assumed that women are the primary offenders given the superiority of numbers but there is also a perceived vulnerability in this group. That vulnerability could have allowed continued existence in a system that ought to have been purged and lends itself to further exacerbating an already stressed situation. Altogether this is a mess of epic proportion with all parties culpable, you may want to argue the ‘degree’ to which each has contributed but that is beyond the scope of this contribution. What is clear is an impending economic crisis and true to form the most vulnerable are exposed, the suggestion therefore is the use of the recommendations of the Shorey report, the opposition leader should be aware of it, to minimize the impact. I would also suggest that a moratorium be placed on any further increases for 10 years allowing a period of adaptation and preparation by the public for any future increases which ought to be on a slow incremental basis. The can has been kicked as far down the road as is skillfully capable the time to pick it up is now.


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