More solutions needed to assist tertiary studentsWednesday, October 28, 2020
Jhenelle Small & Devaraine Rowe
THE novel coronavirus pandemic has increased the levels of fear and anxiety of students across the nation as we try to cope with the many challenges presented with this new normal. Amidst this, the mental health of the students at The University of the West Indies has been further deteriorated by the severe financial struggles. This has rendered some incapable of continuing their pursuit of higher education.
For many, garnering the funds necessary is it itself a factual impossibility. This strenuous burden on the student population must be viewed in the context of the fact that, due to said pandemic, many scholarships that students depended on have been cut. Furthermore, many working students have been laid off or have had their salaries significantly reduced. Even more than this, the annual Work and Travel Programme was restricted in its operation and as such many students have been denied the opportunity to earn these needed funds towards their education. The effect of these realities is that many have been forced to either take a leave of absence from tertiary studies, find alternative methods of gaining funds, or simply hope for assistance to come their way.
While students across all faculties have been impacted by financial constraints, students of the Faculty of Law have been particularly severely affected. Their fees, having been quoted in US dollars, and due to the changes in the exchange rate, have consequently been raised by about $60,000.
This fate has also been shared by students of the faculties of medical sciences, engineering, science and technology, and humanities seeing increases of up to $128,000.
The transition to the online modality of learning has also increased the struggle of many, as some students lack personal technological devices to pursue online learning, which is a necessity in these unprecedented times. Furthermore, some students do not have access to a stable Internet source and as such rely on purchased data plans to access online resources and classes. This is not a feasible approach for many of these students, especially in the context of the additional expenses brought about by COVID-19 and its economic implications.
There are many concerns being faced by students; however, there are currently limited solutions available. The administration of The University of the West Indies has assisted students in the previous semester by adjusting the deadlines for payments. Additionally, payment plans have been made more accessible to students and miscellaneous fees have been lowered for this semester. As a guild, we have been working assiduously to achieve our main objective of student welfare under the Guild of Students Financial Assistance Program and other opportunities. However, in light of the deregistration period rapidly approaching, we are urging both private and public sector entities to come on board and see how best we can assist students in ensuring that, regardless of the current pandemic, they are still able to access tertiary level education and do not have to be deregistered by the university.
The pandemic has resulted in a greater need for access to education. Hence, it is important for us to recognise this and ensure that Jamaica's future nation leaders are given a fair opportunity of building a brighter and better Jamaica.
Devaraine Rowe is UWI Guild vice-president — services and special projects and Jhenelle Small is the student representative for the Faculty of Law, UWI Mona. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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