Derwayne

UG STUDENTS; Collateral Damage for Guyana’s Parliament

As Parliament moves to recess, what is worrying is that the current impasse, which will see thousands of University Students displaced and deprived of student loans, will not be resolved.

I am not one to jump on a rant against political parties unless I feel that their actions are a hindrance to national development. But now, I am more concerned that this Tenth Parliament has presented a crisis for the University of Guyana students.

Not only has the initial $450M provided for under the Loan Agency of the Ministry of Finance been disapproved by the Political Opposition, and restored later as $225M by the Minister of Finance, but this situation has been compounded by the imminent and all but escapable hike in tuition fees.

I feel that the students and by extension the University have been lodged in a game of political ping-pong between the Government and the Opposition.

While students express vehemently how the University of Guyana Students Society (UGSS) grossly misrepresented them when they negotiated falsely on their behalf in support of the tuition hikes, we must see a greater issue at hand playing out at a higher forum.

As the elections atmosphere looms with a No-Confidence Motion against the Government of Guyana for the Finance Minister’s restoration of $4B that was disapproved during the 2014 budget debates, the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)/ Alliance For Change (AFC) joint opposition have refused to meet on the initially set Thursday, August 7, 2014 date, which would have marked the final sitting before the two months recess. Which means that if the student loan issue was to be addressed, such would have to be done before the beginning of the academic year 2014/2015 in September.

THE REASON FOR THE REFUSAL?

The National Assembly was set to address the Government’s business on the last day before the recess, the Opposition’s business would not have been addressed on that day. Considering that the No-Confidence Motion would have to be tabled on the day designated for the Opposition’s business, I say no more.

The University Students have long suffered under a highly politicized University Council which houses members of the PPP, PNC and WPA, who have time and time again allowed politics to hamper the progress of the premier tertiary education institute of this country.

Some may doubt the severity of the situation, but we should take into consideration the report of T. Hamilton and Associates titled “Enhancement of the Regulatory Framework for the Improvement of Operations at the University of Guyana: Structures and programmes for efficiency and effectiveness, competencies and income diversification.”

I myself was not aware of this document until Former UGSS President, Mr. Collin Constantine cited the document as a source in his work “Sharing the burden of paying for Higher Education“.

Screen shot taken from report of Former UGSS President, Mr. Collin Constantine in his work "Sharing the burden of paying for higher education"
Screen shot taken from report of Former UGSS President, Mr. Collin Constantine in his work “Sharing the burden of paying for higher education”

I have nothing much to say on how the current situation advanced by both the National Assembly and the UG Administration will present a crisis for tertiary education participation in Guyana. I, instead, hope that others will see the reason and logic in this ranting based on the screenshot taken.

CONSIDER THIS: In 2012, 2904 (two thousand nine hundred and four) students were granted student loans. The loan fund at that time stood at $450M, of which $406M was utilised.

Fast forward to 2014, It is clear to say that 2500 students or more will request loans since Registrar, Vincent Alexander in an interview has admitted that students continue to register as per normal. However, considering the current state of affairs, $225M alone is available in the loan fund. Now, how would we divvy up up $225M among 2500? That is about $90,000 available per student for the Academic year.

Tuition, after the hikes were made, stands at $180,000 for continuing students with a $15,000 annual increase. For prospective students, rates stand at approximately $210,000. I will not attempt to do the maths but it is safe to say that although 2500 may apply for loans, only 1250 will be able to access those loans.

It can conclusively be determined that where we had 2904 students being awarded loans in 2012, only 1250 students will be able to access this loans. So how will they do it?

Lottery?…

Abna babna?…

Whatever the outcome in this coming academic year at the University of Guyana, it is safe to say that the Politicians, whom we elect to defend the national interest, have deserted us. If this situation does not present a crisis then I don’t know what would. Consider the mother attending University who has a child or two but still aspires to complete her tertiary education.

Consider the father who is looking to advance his studies while still sending his children to school and consider the parent who must now delve deeper into their pockets to provide for their student’s tertiary education.

This is a travesty! There is only so much I can say or do… the next thing I must do is pose this question to those willing to hear the message and answer the call; what now?

Could I be wrong? Maybe.

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