Challenge for CDA to fund tertiary studies for wards of the state
THE Child Development Agency (CDA) says that it is facing a huge challenge financing tertiary studies for wards of the State, particularly those pursuing law and medical degrees.
Chief executive officer of the agency, Rosalee Gage-Grey, says the challenge is increasing with more wards of the state matriculating to university.
"The results are just coming in and from what we are getting so far, a number of them have done well, some will go on to sixth form and we can manage that," Gager commented in reference to the recent sittings of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examinations (CSEC).
"The problem is for those who want to go on to tertiary level, especially those who want to do law and medicine," she added.
Gage-Grey, who was speaking at last Thursday's inaugural National Children's Summit at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, lamented the high cost of tertiary studies though she was unable to say definitively how many wards of the state were affected and the overall cost of their studies.
"We have students who are doing exceptionally well getting into the traditional professional areas of studies and the fees are quite expensive, so we have to be sourcing scholarships for them. We have a young man from St Mary who has been accepted into med school and it is $3 million for the year," she said.
"So far, we have two students for law school and one for medicine, but one is going to do dentistry at UTech (University of Technology), which is not so bad, but the one at Mona (University of the West Indies) is going to be a problem," Gage-Grey added.
Over the last two years, she said a number of the children have been performing exceptionally well at Grade Six Achievement Test, CSEC and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination.
"Last year, for the first time, the minister of education paid for all CSEC and CAPE students and so we are now able to track the number of students who are doing exams, who have passed and what they are doing, and so we are seeing the need to provide scholarships for them to further their tertiary education," Gage-Grey said.
According to her, the agency tries its best but is finding it difficult to stretch the funds when there are so many children in the system to put through school.
"It is really difficult and it is really heart-rending to tell a child that you have to switch faculties or to do something else," she noted. "When a young man gets 10 ones and four CAPE subjects it is difficult to tell him to switch faculties."
When asked about the issue, Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna said that it was not all a 'bad' challenge.
"Our children, over the last two years, have been doing very well and that is because of the programmes that we have implemented. We now have children getting 10 ones and four CAPE subjects; we have students getting into law school, so we now have to try and find ways to pay for their school fees," the minister said.
She also disclosed that the agency is having discussions with the Students' Loan Bureau and other funding agencies with a view to helping the children. She also said that the ministry was exploring the idea of launching a foundation to help the students.