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Education ministry, Observer readers helping brilliant Shenordo who wants to study pathology

BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor - publications davidsonv@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, August 12, 2014    

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SHENORDO Blagrove, the first-year medical student who was forced to drop out of the University of the West Indies (UWI) because of lack of funding, has been given a lifeline by the Ministry of Education and Jamaica Observer readers.

Yesterday, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites told the weekly Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange that he met with Blagrove on Monday, August 4, a day after her story was published in the Sunday Observer.

A number of readers who commented on the story on the newspaper's website offered to help the 20-year-old former Convent of Mercy Alpha student get back into medical school.

"She has been very kindly assisted by a number of your readers who have called her... and so she is going to get from those persons who telephoned, the amounts that they would contribute and the Ministry of Education will pick up the balance, so Shenordo will be in medical school," Thwaites said.

Blagrove, who said she had always wanted to be a doctor, specialising in pathology, was one of a number of students whom the education ministry assisted with $2 million each towards their tuition last year.

However, she was unable to find the balance of the fee, which Thwaites yesterday revealed was a further $600,000.

Shortly after the start of the second term she applied for a semester break, but submitted the request late. Then, to make matters worse, she fell ill and had to be hospitalised in April this year.

Yesterday, Thwaites said that Blagrove was one of 34 students for whom the education ministry contributed $64 million in grants of $2 million each for medical studies.

"These were people who came to us with needs and no other way of supporting themselves," he said.

Blagrove, he said, represents "a growing cohort of students from the first and second quintile of the Jamaican society", that is, those at the lowest economic level who... "have done everything right and have qualified to go to university".

The epic importance of that, he said, was that these students stayed in school and did not allow themselves to be dragged into any anti-social circumstances that could derail their future.

"They have qualified for one of the learned professions that have been so much in demand, and... it would be an utter reproach if we were unable to meet their basic needs," the minister said.

"So we found this money within the [education] ministry, and the Ministry of Health, through the National Health Fund, made considerable contributions... and so we were able to meet those needs," he explained.

The challenge now, Thwaites said, is to find similar resources because the ministry believes that the number of requests for assistance will grow, most likely double, with the release of this year's Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination results this week.

But even as Thwaites and the ministry have committed to assisting, the beneficiaries need to understand that they will be bonded.

"There has to be some give-back," he said.

Yesterday, when the Observer contacted Blagrove, she said she "felt very excited" at the thought of returning to medical school.

What she now needs, based on the UWI's requirements, is a letter of commitment from any of her sponsors for 50 per cent of the bursary, as well as a doctor's certificate stating the nature of the illness that disrupted her studies earlier this year.

"I'll try to get it done as soon as possible," she said.

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