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Warren Anderson

Peter Christopher

Despite the expectation and acceptance that changes needed to be made to the GATE programme, president of the University of the West Indies’ St Augustine Guild of Students, Warren Anderson, believes the call made for postgraduate funding may leave more people on the outside looking in.

“Perhaps the thinking is if you are a postgraduate student, you know, you’re working and you therefore can afford fund your programme but this is not the case. Many students and postgraduates aren’t working,” Anderson said hours after Education Minister announced a cut in funding to the programme yesterday.

“Right, because one the job market has indicated that you know, an undergraduate degree is insufficient, so most people would rationalise let me go and get my Master’s Degree.”

Anderson said he feels instead of cutting the funding off completely, the mandatory means-testing now being introduced for undergraduates should be included for postgraduate students who fall into that category.

“I think it would be just to examine those who are in postgraduate programmes and are not working, they should have the opportunity to continue their programmes through to the end. Perhaps we can even look at some sort of means testing for postgraduate programmes as well,” said Anderson, who said he was otherwise pleased there were not widespread cuts and that current undergrad students would be able to see their programmes through on the previous arrangement.

However youth activist Nikoli Jean-Paul Edwards was a bit more critical of the announcement.

“Friday’s announcement by the Minister of Education demonstrates that the Government of the Republic Trinidad and Tobago (GoRTT) has not yet found a way to rationalise educating citizens and that there is no real plan to involve graduates in productive activity,” he said.

He called on the Government to “provide data that shows that funding the education of citizens does not have the economic and social benefit that was envisioned when the Dollar for Dollar programme and GATE were launched.”

Edwards continued to question whether enough had been done to maximise the human resource of the country.

“Too many of our brilliant minds remain unused, unsupported and unengaged. Solving the issue of an oversaturation of educated citizens cannot ever be to reduce the opportunities for our nationals to further themselves,” he said.

“While we understand that our country’s resources are constrained, this is a backward step and a dark day for our country, as there is great uncertainty and a lack of vision among those elected to work on behalf of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Former Education Minister Tim Gopeesingh was also critical with focus on the adjustment to the scholarship programme, as he contended students who put efforts towards gaining scholarships under the previous arrangement will be disadvantaged. “Their expectations of receiving scholarships in certain groupings are now being unfairly and possibly illegally dashed under this new policy. This is due to the fact that they would have entered the CAPE system under an existing policy where approximately 150 Open and 250 Additional Scholarships were granted in seven groupings,” he said, asking if the adjustment was meant to favour those aligned to the People’s National Movement. “Indeed, this new policy is wide open to allegations that it will be used to serve the PNM political directorate’s questionable, biased agenda. It will also undoubtedly be riddled with serious, damaging allegations of discrimination and inequality, all of which will unfairly affect the majority of young citizens in this country.

“The Rowley administration should instead look into removing all the wasteful, corrupt expenditure in the other areas of Government’s administration, instead of calculatedly destroying one of the most important aspects of the education system—our scholarship programme.”

—Peter Christopher