Tuesday 24 November, 2020

Holness donates $5 million to needy UTech, UWI students

Andrew Holness

Andrew Holness

Some of the most needy students at the nation’s two main universities – The University of the West Indies (UWI) and the University of Technology (UTech) have benefitted to the tune of a combined $5 million from Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Holness, a former Minister of Education, handed over the funds on Monday after reading about the plight of the students which would have been made worse due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UWI Mona Guild Council lauded Holness on Monday for what it described as “his generous contribution to student welfare at the …Mona Campus”.

The prime minister, through the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) Education Fund and the Positive Jamaica Foundation, donated a total $2.5 million towards students facing financial challenges.

According to Guild President, Sujae Boswell, the donation comes at a critical juncture for students pursuing tertiary studies.

“In this unprecedented time, students and their guardians are facing extreme circumstances and so we are appreciative of every effort to cushion the impacts that come with the pandemic. This is a critical investment in higher education at a time when our nation has entered a new phase of teaching and learning in the COVID-19 era,” Boswell stated.

Boswell noted that The UWI Mona Guild Council has launched an enrollment and registration taskforce to identify funding opportunities to assist students who have been significantly disadvantaged by the pandemic.

“As a council, we fully acknowledge that the traditional issues to funding tertiary education has been compounded with the challenges of COVID-19. This requires a strategic response to ensure that the fallout is minimal, ” Boswell added.

The Guild President is appealing to persons who can assist students in need to reach out to the UWI Mona Guild by email at uwistudentsunion@gmail.com or via phone at (876) 702-2463 / (876) 935-8168.

In the meantime, a similar $2.5 million was handed over by Holness to students in need at UTech which, like the UWI is based in Papine, St Andrew.

The money received by UTech will go towards assisting students with the “greatest financial need at this time.” 

According to the university, the donation, which took place Monday, included two cheques – one for $1.5 million from the JLP’s Education Fund and the other for $1 million from the Prime Minister's Positive Jamaica Foundation.

According to a statement, Holness said he was moved to reach out to the university following recent media reports concerning financial difficulties being faced by university students.

“I read with concern an article in the newspaper recently that outlined the difficulties that university students were having. The difficulties revolved around their lack of ability to finance their education. The COVID-19 times would have made it difficult for everyone but particularly for students,” the prime minister said.

He added that another challenge reportedly being faced by students was technology, whereby students were not able to connect to online classes owing to lack of devices and a lack of reliable Internet connectivity, particularly in some rural communities.

“This in my mind would be a perfect example of what is considered the digital divide,” Holness said, adding that “there are persons in our society who are poor, but their poverty is not just as it relates to income and personal savings but their poverty is also lack of connectivity. So another dimension of poverty is lack of connectivity; how well connected are you to information networks, to the information highway and how are you able to virtually participate in the new economies that are emerging and the modalities that are emerging to conduct transactions.”

Noting that there is a correlation between income, access and performance, which may result in scholarships sometimes being awarded to persons who may not necessarily have a need, the prime minister noted that “what we try to do to balance that scale is to offer these scholarships to the universities. So instead of the Jamaica Labour Party going to select who is in need; it would be better that this is done by the universities who could adjudge that."

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