open letter National Student Loan Company, Ministry of Education and Bank of St. Vincent and the Grenadines

RE: COVID-19 and the exhaustion of semester drawdown

21April 2020

Mr. Stewart Haynes

Chairman

National Disadvantage Student Loan

Kingstown

St. Vincent and the Grenadines  

Dear Mr. Haynes,

It is our hope that this communication meets you in favourable health and spirit, as we are all living in an unprecedented time and travailing unchartered waters.

Since the public disclosure of the first cases of the novel coronavirus in China, the virus has drastically altered the status quo of numerous societies. The World Helath Organization (WHO) has posited that the global pandemic has claimed over 80,000 lives and over 1.3 million persons have tested positive for the deadly respiratory disease.

In light of such global impact and the first confirmed cases in Jamaica, the leadership of the University of the West Indies, Mona campus, in an effort to ensure the safety of students and staff alike, moved to suspend the all classes for a month, until April 14, 2020.

The declaration, which took effect on March 13, 2020, saw the order being made for students who are Jamaican nationals to return home. Subsequently, regional/international students who could or wished to return to their home countries were advised to do so.

This saw several Vincentian students who are self-funded returning home. However, the numerous students funded by the Government of SVG via the National Disadvantage Student Loan Scheme were unable to make such a drastic decision as drawdowns are given on a semester basis at the start of each semester and the university, because of the fluidity of the pandemic, had not made a concrete and official decision as to whether classes would resume in a face-to-face mode post April 13.

On March 25, the University made the official decision that teaching/learning will resume in an online/virtual mode on April 14, 2020. This resulted in the anticipated extension of the semester, which was previously scheduled to end on May 15, 2020 and semester 2 has now been extended a month, which means that the teaching period has now been extended to May and the examination period extended to June/July.

At the time that the decision was officially made, the Government of Jamaica implemented several travel restrictions to curb the increasing number of cases. Additionally, the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago had initiated more stringent travel restrictions resulting in the inability of several students who had already booked flights for the end of the semester  to return home as the majority do not have US visas to take the Miami route.

We will all agree that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that is plaguing the world was unforeseen and thus not prepared for. However, apart from its health impacts the pandemic has varying financial bearings — students not spared. Based on the advice from the UWI, the Government of Jamaica and our Honorary Consul in Jamaica, we each stocked up on food and other necessities for the one-month suspension as we were not and still is not  allowed to visit each other’s halls of residence to “potluck” and share resources (a practice we commonly engage in to ensure that amidst the tenacious  responsibilities of university life, we are all taken care of  and our funds maximised). Such unforeseen actions have proven to be quite impactful on the budgets and drawdowns given at the start of the now extended semester (January 2020).

As recipients of the disadvantage student loan and, further, being unable to return home due to unforeseen situations beyond our control, we eagerly watched the Prime Minister’s address and presentation of the government’s stimulus package on March 25, but nothing was mentioned in relation to us. We further awaited correspondence from the National Disadvantage Student Loan Company but to date, apart from an email encouraging us to abide by the rules and precautionary guidelines of the respective countries and to practice good personal hygiene- none was received. Classes have resumed virtually, as decided by the UWI, and the situation and regulations in Jamaica have escalated. As of April 20, the total positive cases stood at 223. This has resulted in the implementation of more stringent regulations regarding shopping and to the quarantine of the parish of St. Catherine. Moreover, several places in Kingston are currently under investigation. We fear possible increase in cases and quarantine of the Kingston area and were prompted to stock up again from our already depleting funds.

A poll was conducted among us, which revealed that past the month of April, many persons funded by the disadvantage student loan would no longer be able to sustain themselves for the extended period of the semester. Against this backdrop, we call on the stakeholders of the National Disadvantage Student Loan Scheme to investigate the unforeseen situation that has resulted in varying implications for students in this time of anxiety and concern.

Recipients, National Disadvantage Student Loan, University of the West Indies, Mona – Jamaica

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

8 replies on “Vincy students running out of money, food in Jamaica”

  1. Send them the money comrade, send them the money now. We are in the middle of a crisis in the education revolution, send them the money so as they can remain a part of it, send them the money comrade. Send them some of the money you told us Julian has “he has more money than some small countries.” You may of forgotnabout that comrade but some of us have not forgot.

    Send them some of that money, or if there is money left over from the million in a crocus bag send that.

  2. As a pelican who gained my wings at Mona, I am sadden by the plight of the current students. I hope the relevant authorities will put the necessary structure in place so that you can access additional draw downs and the resulting increase in loan threshold to accommodate this emergency response.

    I will also highlight that all exams can be written at the local open campus so persons who may not want to extend accommodations and its costs, can explore this option .

    All the best. ..hope it is resolved shortly

  3. You would think that with a population of 110.00 across upwards of 500 square miles of territory that it would be straight forward how to deal with the community’s business. but no it is con after con. Should we call the con-busters? Corvid 19 or no Corvid 19.

  4. Nathan, let me clarify my above statement. The Government looks like it doesn’t have any security to offer to anyone much less to SVG-students abroad. And, now it is Corvid 19 to blame. Barbados has 10x the population density of SVG yet they seem to be coping fine. We are drowning in uncertainty. We don’t know where this is going and we are ill prepared if it escalates.

    1. Dear RX, thank you so much for the clarification.

      We are dealing with Covidiots, who make the rules then ignore their own public health advice or behave with reckless disregard for the safety of others as. they display “covidiocy” and are therefore “covidiotic”.

      They should also be known as “lockclowns” or even a “Wuhan-ker’s”.

      I must ask the comrade this. If the Cuban students come home due to the crisis incidence of the corona virus in Cuba and then not being supplied with enough food for their brains to be decently fed . If they come home will you insist the Cubans pay for them to return and then pay for them to be in 21 days quarantine.
      Please answer that comrade will you insist they pay.?

    2. I must ask the comrade this. If the Vincentian students in Cuba come home due to the crisis incidence of the corona virus in Cuba and then not being given enough food for their brains to be decently fed . If they come home will you insist the Cubans pay for them to return and then pay for them to be in 21 days quarantine.

      Will you instruct the Cubans in no mean terms to feed our students, or arrange for them to have a place at the trough?

      Will permission be given for an airplane to land at Argyle if it is carrying hungry Vincentian students home from Cuba, if the Cubans have not pre-paid?

      Please answer that comrade will you insist they pay.?

      I don’t know why comrade but this poetic verse keeps racing through my mind –

      Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
      Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
      All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
      Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

  5. Of course I know this is article is about Vincentian students in Jamaica, but our students in Cuba are in a far worse situation than those in Jamaica.

    But why not get them all home wherever they are, where they can be properly looked after, with less risk of catching Covid 19 and get fed three proper meals every day.

    These people are our future, to allow them to remain in these dangerous and dire situations with little food is unforgivable.

    If they return home they I am sure they will expect their student loans to be cancelled, and the outstanding amounts to paid by the government.

    Step up to the block Sir, pay up, just pay up.

    And comrade if there is room at your castle or palace you can find accommodation for them, as long as they do not have to sleep with a sailor. Because you will probably have a few of them, taking up the offer you previously made to the Nigerian. May I also ask is the Nigerian registered to vote? Because the sailors and students are.

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