Sir Hilary Beckles

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The senior executive leadership of The University of the West Indies (UWI) have committed a portion of their monthly income to assist students that are seeing hard times in the midst of COVID-19.

In a release yesterday, UWI noted: “The Vice-Chancellor, Campus Principals, Pro Vice-Chancellors, University Bursar and University Registrar—have all committed to allocating a percentage of their salaries for the next three months towards a student hardship fund.”

The institution acknowledged that the aim of the fund is to promote equity of access for all students as well as provide much needed additional counselling services during this time.

UWI Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles said that the offer of a salary-source contribution from the executive leadership to enhance student well-being is another part of the UWI CARES project, designed to empower any excluded element of the student body. He explained: “This is a justice gesture to further illustrate our commitment. We are here to serve and support them in their quest to succeed.”

The executive leadership of the regional university has recognised that the rapid transition to emergency online teaching in response to the regional spread of COVID-19 has exposed the enormity of challenges facing financially and socially-marginalised students.

With a student body of close to 50,000, UWI believes that at least 10,000 of them are functioning in social circumstance that makes it excessively difficult to participate equally and equitably in this moment of digital intensification.

The release noted that principals across UWI’s five campuses have also stepped up in developing remedial projects to confront this reality and to restore the level playing field provided by the physical classroom culture.

It said that UWI’s alumni have been called upon to participate in fund-raising and philanthropy have also responded by donating hundreds of tablets.

At the St Augustine Campus, two funds currently exist for students in need: the Student Hardship Fund and the Adopt-A-Student Programme, both managed by the Division of Student Services and Development. In a recent release, The St Augustine Campus Principal, Professor Brian Copeland has pledged to increase his direct contribution to the Adopt-A-Student Programme.

The Adopt-A-Student Programme, which is available for currently-registered students, began with contributions from 32 staff members in July 2005. It has now grown to hundreds of staff members making monthly contributions on the Campus.

According to Copeland: “Many staff, through contributions on the personal or group level (as a Department), contribute to these funds annually and a significant number of administrative, technical and service staff have been supporting students directly over the years.”

Professor Copeland said he is pleased to see that this support not only continues but has expanded during this time.

“Although we cannot yet be certain about the course of the pandemic, we are making sure that we put the necessary support in place not only for current students but for those who will join us come September as well,” said Copeland.