“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 following Letter to the Editor was submitted to Wired868 by Akeela N Marin, a Trinidadian student in Jamaica, who is president of the UWI Mona Debating and Public Speaking Society:
It is baffling that The University of the West Indies student body is celebrating the Jamaica 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, giving credit where credit is due, praise the JLP for answering the prayers of present and future The 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 UWI. Many of these students already have huge loans which are 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 the time at which they begin to repay their loans and it therefore means ultimately having to pay even greater interest on these loans.
A common option among Final Year students is joining the travel/work programme and thus earning money to finish paying for their tuition prior to 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’ best interest.
The UWI’s solution to this problem is equivalent to tying the hands of their impoverished students behind their backs while pressing them against a barbed wire fence—thus 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 of weeks.
Don’t get me wrong; we must applaud Government for stepping in. But we equally must point out that its involvement is merely putting a pretty bandage on a festering sore. The system used to recover funds from students at The UWI is inherently flawed and there is need for a better system to be put in place.