Minister Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat arrives for the 12th Parliament Ceremonial Opening.

The possibility is “always alive” of taking legal action against 72 students who are owing on their Government scholarships since the Education Ministry has recourse to the court.

Government senator Clarence Rambharat, in Senate yesterday indicated this among possible options available to the Ministry. He was replying to UNC senator Wade Mark’s queries on whether Government would go to court to collect on what the students are owing.

Mark had asked about the sum of $26 million referred to in the Auditor General’s report. Rambharat said this is in respect of 158 defaulting scholars over the period 2012/2018.

“This includes the entire term of a former UNC Government,” he added.

Of those 158 scholars, 86 were categorized as statute-barred under the Limitation of Certain Actions, Chap 7:09, which provides for a time limit of four years for an action to be brought.

Rambharath said the Education Ministry would take measures to deal with defaulters who were not statute-barred and whose payments are due. Measures include notifying the students of their debt, seeking payment and further action may or may not be taken.

He said students who are awarded scholarships by or through the Government have three options to pay. With any failure to meet payments, the Ministry has recourse to the court.

Students who receive scholarships are required to serve a period of obligatory service upon completion of their course of study. That period is determined by the amount of funds expended on the scholarship.

A scholar who fails to fulfil his/her period of obligatory service or is otherwise in breach of their scholarship agreement is required to repay all funds expended on their scholarship, with interest.

Such a scholar is offered three options:

(a) Repay in full the amount owed;

(b) Repay a lump sum amount and enter a repayment agreement to make monthly instalments over a period or

(c) enter a repayment agreement where monthly instalments are made over a period.

On another Opposition query on the reason for the delay in payment of scholarship funds to students studying overseas, Rambharath said the total number of scholars currently studying overseas is 479.

They are paid a monthly Personal Maintenance Allowances (PMA) on a quarterly basis, as well as tuition and compulsory fees which are paid on an annual/semester basis.

He added, “As at December 01, 2020, 438 (91 per cent) of the overseas scholars have been paid the PMA due for the quarter ending December 31, 2020.

“Payment of the remaining 41 will be made upon receipt of the relevant documentation from the academic institutions – status/enrollment letter and the yearly academic transcripts.”

“With respect to the payment of tuition and compulsory fees, invoices for 250 of the overseas scholars, have been received and payments made.”

Rambharat said of the remaining 229 of overseas scholars, invoices haven’t been received for 184.

He said the Education Ministry, isn’t obligated to pay tuition and compulsory fees for 45 overseas scholars for Semester I of the academic year 2020/2021. This is since 19 are paid by the Cuban Government, four opted not to accept the tuition payments, one is on leave due to personal reasons, 20 are on Work-Term sessions as part of their study – and one defaulted on his contractual obligations.