With three days before classes begin at the University of the West Indies (UWI) St Augustine campus, scores of students have not been able to register at the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE) office and have their means tests done.
The situation is now being described by the president of UWI’s Student Guild Justin Subero as “chaotic and mass confusion.”
There has been a string of posts by students on social media slamming GATE’s St Augustine office for its poor service and lack of interest in assisting them with their queries and concerns.
Subero said part of the problem is that “students still have a hold on their accounts that have been preventing them from registering.”
To compound matters, Subero said the office has not been conducting the means test for students in an efficient and timely manner due to poor staffing.
The means test is a method used to assess the ability of the family, or of independent individuals, to contribute financially to the cost of their education.
All students commencing a new programme from August 2017 and beyond are subject to means-testing.
“ I don’t think the office being underresourced should result in students’ lives being inconvenienced. That is unacceptable,” Subero complained.
Students’ registration at UWI began on January 13 with classes to start this Monday.
“Students are being left high and dry. The most right now UWI is doing is waiving the late registration fees for students. Right now we are hoping that GATE can process the applications in time for when classes begin.”
With the clock ticking, Subero said students have been in a state of “panic and worry” because they are unable to register for their courses. Many of them are final years students.”
Since last semester, he said students had applied for the test and awaiting approvals.
Students whose applications have been “processed unapproved still face a challenge, in that, they still have the account receivables on hold.”
He said UWI and the guild have been doing all that they can to mitigate the issue.
“But we are still waiting on GATE to process the remainder of applications and to actually communicate that to UWI so they can remove the accounts receivables hold.”
If the situation is not rectified by Monday, Subero said the guild would protest with students.
“Protest is our last resort. If the situation continues to persist the guild would stand in solidarity with the students and their rights. I don’t see it being an action out of our reach.”
Unable to say how many students are affected, Subero said within the last two weeks the guild received “hundreds of complaints from students” about the matter.
Subero said the guild tried to make contact with the office but was unsuccessful.
He appealed to the Ministry of Education for swift action to resolve this ongoing issue.
Former tertiary minister Fazal Karim said part of the problem hinges on inadequate staffing at the GATE office which is an indictment on the Government’s ability to get its act together.
“It shows the level of inefficiency at a crucial time like this. This would no doubt leave students in uncertainty, distressed and fuming. I call on Education Minister Anthony Garcia to take responsibility for this unfortunate situation and ensure that adequate resources are provided so that students can have their education free from stress and utter confusion,” Karim said.