Pro-test in protest

Tuesday, May 08, 2012    

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LAST week Monday, while students of the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus sat preparing for the nerve-racking experience of exams, they were greeted by an unpleasant surprise.

What was to be a peaceful protest soon escalated into a storming of the castle with some disgruntled students disturbing the examination process under the tent.

The wailing for justice stemmed from students being barred from exams and the online services that teachers to use post notes for the non-payment or outstanding payment of school fees.

The controversial nature of the students' action was that multiple exams had to be rescheduled. That also potentially affected some of the students' studying schedule to travel arrangements for those who are international students.

TEENage would like to tackle this issue from the perspective that there needs to be an improved relationship between students and the administration of the UWI.

The inability to pay one's school fee is not a new phenomenon as tertiary education in Jamaica comes with high expense, but is expected to reap maximum benefits.

The Students' Loan Bureau along with other financial schemes and scholarships are set in place to alleviate the situation.

However, like with most things, there are criteria that restricts the number of students who can benefit from this assistance.

As was previously discussed, the burning issue behind this protest was the fact that students who had partially/not paid for their school fees were not allowed to access the online education systems, vote in guild elections and more importantly sit their exams.

From the University's perspective, one can understand that this measure was a pre-emptive strike against the lack of payment coupled with the lack of communication on the students' part as to what plan has been put in place to pay the fees.

From the students' perspective, some have exclaimed that they are owing a small amount and succumbing to the same fate as those who owe more or who have not paid at all.

Also the incongruence of information received from the administration has left several students reeling for answers.

The basic argument put forward is that education is like any other service, that you should have to pay for in order to enjoy. Furthermore, not being chastised outrightly for having not paid the fees should not be taken as a sign to not take it seriously. This could reasonably have been the reason for the University going for the jugular and cutting off the student lifeline since in retrospect not paying school fee does that to the University.

The escalated protest was not the proper means to get the message across. The solution rests with priority and communication and standardising a system that seems to be riddled with discrepancies. Students, make it your responsibility and not just that of your parents and guardians to secure the financial means to receive an education.

Also make it your duty to be informed and to be on top of the options provided by the university and the requisite means to get assistance. If you are not satisfied with the system ensure that you lodge a formal complaint and monitor it but ensure that you are not at fault and you are exercising your right to be informed.



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