Set up support system for overseas-based students, academic urges

Dean
of the College of Health Sciences at the University of Technology (UTech) Dr Adella Campbell says there should be a system in place to support local students who are recipients of academic scholarships overseas.

In the event that their studies are disrupted and they are forced to evacuate the donor country, Campbell said, they should be able to easily bounce back in Jamaica.

“I am of the view, that in circumstances where students on overseas scholarships are forced to return home because of hostile situations in donor countries, there should be some formal arrangements for continued support for these students, where support provided for by these scholarships are no longer available or has been reduced,” she told the Jamaica Observer.

“These scholarships are often through bilateral agreements between Jamaica and donor countries and as such, the scholarship recipients should not be disadvantaged. By and large, we expect the Government to play a more active role in assisting these students,” Campbell continued.

In February last year, 22 Jamaican students were forced to flee Ukraine, following a deadly Russian invasion which has resulted in the death of almost 7,000 citizens. Over 400 are children.

Further, the students left Jamaica because of the high cost of studying locally.

At The University of the West Indies (The UWI) the annual tuition for medicine is US$28,000, and when subsidised by Government that goes down to US$5,800. Meanwhile, in Ukraine, the tuition ranges from a starting point of just US$3,500.

Campbell told the Sunday Observer that she empathises with those students who are yet to find a place in a tertiary institution locally to complete their course of study.

“One wonders if this is due to the lack of spaces in these institutions or their inability to pay. It is true that financing tertiary education out of pocket can create severe economic hardship for some segments of society, and would have been one of the reasons why these students were awarded the scholarship in the first place,” she argued.

“It would, therefore, be unfortunate for the achievement of higher education by these students to be stymied, simply because of their inability to meet the up-front cost of their education.”

Campbell added that while she is aware that students have access to other grants, scholarships, and loans through the Student Loan Bureau (SLB), she believes the Government could further provide loans through private banks, for example, to assist the students, and others who are desirous of pursuing tertiary education.

“The Government could also support employing terms and conditions such as bonding, to ensure that these students serve Jamaica for a prescribed number of years prior to migrating to other countries. Special arrangements would be made for the loan repayment, especially for those who may not immediately find a job post-graduation. Students who migrate post-graduation without serving the bond, would be required to repay the full loan,” Campbell told the Sunday Observer.

The Bonding Policy for the Government of Jamaica supersedes all other bonding policies and is applicable to Jamaicans who receive assistance from OR through Government for training at tertiary, polytechnic or other training institutions, to pursue undergraduate, postgraduate or post-experience training whether local or overseas.

These persons constituting Public Officers, employees of Public Bodies and private persons are required to sign Loan Agreements which oblige them to give service on completion of the award. In this regard, persons are bonded to work in the Civil Service in particular, Public Bodies in general or to accept employment elsewhere in Jamaica as specified in the particular letter of award.

“It is normal for the entity, agency, country sponsoring the award to stipulate where the bond is to be served. Where the sponsor is silent, then the decision regarding where the bond is served rests with the office with responsibility for administering this policy,” the policy reads.

Campbell added: “The demand for higher education is increasing and there are significant benefits to achieving a tertiary education. As such, these students should view their contribution as a short-term sacrifice in return for long-term benefits.”

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