As an educator I am baffled by the policies of the Students’ Loan Bureau (SLB), which claims that its mandate is to provide educational loans for poor Jamaicans. Last year I met a student – a most determined young man – who, though losing his mother to the gun at an early age, surmounted his grief and poverty-stricken childhood and left his non-traditional high school with eight CXCs.
This young man, who can often be seen on Saturdays peddling his wares (toothbrush, brushes for shoes and other small items) downtown to support himself, also passed six units of CAPE subjects in one year. Overjoyed at his acceptance at UWI, he rang me, explaining that he would be the first in his family to attend university. Days later he called back in tears, explaining that the SLB had denied his application, stating that his guarantors (his brothers, one a pump attendant, the other an entry-level clerk) could not cover his loan.
I immediately called the SLB, which was an exercise in futility, as for hours the phone went unanswered. A search of their website simply claimed that those without a guarantor would be denied a loan. So I ask, what are the poor to do? The poorest of the poor are unlikely to have family members or friends whose salary can guarantee loans of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Should they be denied a university education? Do Jamaicans sleep at night knowing this? Can someone tell me what must be done?