Friday 25 September, 2020

ELECTION WATCH: Crawford shares PNP plans for university hopefuls

Damion Crawford

Damion Crawford

The People's National Party (PNP) is proposing to change the name of the Student Loan Bureau (SLB) to the Higher Education Lending Programme (HELP) to "better reflect the general change of what is currently the SLB".

At the same time, the PNP plans to "expand the student work programme and actively seek and place" university students in "both local and overseas short-term employment" if the party wins the September 3 General Elections.

These plans, among others, were shared on Twitter by PNP Vice-President and Spokesman on Youth, Damion Crawford, who revealed last Friday that the ideas were from a page of the party's manifesto that is dedicated to "university hopefuls".

Late Thursday night, a medical student tagged Minister of Finance, Dr Nigel Clarke, on Twitter, and appealed to him for assistance with the challenges of returning to school.

The student tweeted: "@NigelClarkeJa, I’m a struggling medical student in… and I’m wondering in your capacity as MP and finance minister, if you can help me with my tuition so I don’t have to drop out 👉🏿👈🏿🥺."

The minister later responded and told the student to send him a message.

In true social media campaigning style, Crawford retweeted the student's appeal on Friday, and shared a page of the PNP's manifesto dubbed 'Representing the underrepresented - University Hopefuls.'

Tweeted Crawford: "Good day, the PNP has a plan for you and many others like you... Please see a page from our manifesto for university hopefuls."

In addition to renaming the SLB and expanding the student work programme, the PNP has proposed that "the first child from a household to matriculate into tertiary education will receive a full-scholarship so that individual can become the catalyst of change within the family."

That initiative was first mentioned by PNP President, Dr Peter Phillips, at the party's annual conference in 2018.

Under the renamed version of the SLB to be called HELP, the Opposition says the programme "will not require guarantors for applicants to access loans", and "students will have the option of incorporating fees into the loan."

Additionally, nurses, teachers and security force members "will enjoy a moratorium on payment (of the loans) while (being) employed to the public sector."

A page from the People's National Party's (PNP) manifesto for the 2020 General Elections.

The PNP is also promising that "a trust wing of HELP will be established that operates similar to the NHT".

The proposed rebranding of the lending programme is also to help to fund nanodegrees through special loans, which is expected to increase access to employment.

Importantly, the PNP says volunteering with "the National Department of Volunteerism will lead to rate and/or premium reduction" on the loans.

In relation to other aspects of education concerning university students, a PNP-led Government plans to "improve distant and remote learning by introducing a national online learning platform that all schools can use and, by extension,… all students can participate in."

A Twitter user questioned: "How are you guys (the PNP) going to fund all these wonderful ideas”?

Crawford responded: "Well, at an average of 350k ($350,000) for school fee, ($)3.5 billion can provide 10k (10,000) scholarships... that's less than point .5% of the (national) budget." 

In retweeting that response from Crawford, the PNP's West Portland candidate, Queen's Counsel Valerie Neita-Robertson, said the money is available.

"What I realise is many Jamaicans wonder how we can get the money to fund PNP ideas… take a moment and think about the cost of the bathrooms the last admin(istration) built, the de-bushing, the phone bills, the birthday parties. The money is there. We are just going to use it differently."

Meanwhile, the PNP's plan for prospective university students has been gaining traction, with several Twitter users commending the proposed ideas, while some asked additional questions about the ideas being proposed.

One female Twitter user tweeted: "I really like these plans the @JamaicaPNP has for the Jamaican people! How do u get the msges (messages) directly to the targeted sectors though?"

Shared another female: "Education... education... education! The best vehicle out of poverty! This is where it starts."

Another social media user asked whether the loan programme that is being proposed could lend more funds for medicine.

"Is it possible to allow slb (Students’ Loan Bureau) to lend more money for medicine and lend for students going UWI (University of the West Indies) St Augustine and UWI Cave Hill?" she quizzed.

Crawford later replied: "Good idea".

However, he did not elaborate on how that would be achieved.

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