LETTER-HEAR THE STUDENTS’ CRY:Abandoned Antiguan Students at the Caribbean Maritime University in Jamaica

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I have read with alarm comments made by the Port Authority in an article reported in The Daily Observer dated April 9th, 2021 which states:

“Chairman of the Port Authority, Senator Mary Claire Hurst told Observer that… the government is supporting the students in Jamaica and have already paid half of the money owed.

“We recognise that there was an issue with us making the payment and we made recommendations to the government and in terms of paying we sent off 50 percent and we are in the process of sending the other 50,” she said. She also said that, to her knowledge, none of students had been prevented from attending classes.”

It is concerning that the Chairman would have stated the above misinformed states, which varies from what CMU has told the students.

In a meeting with students in January 2021, the Deputy President of the Caribbean Maritime University said that prior to December 2020, the Antiguan government and the Antigua Port Authority owed CMU over US$500,000.00. In December 2020, a payment of over US$60,000.00 was made. This certainly does not represent half of the outstanding debt. The Deputy President informed the students that as of January 2021, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and the Antigua Port Authority owe CMU over US$300,000.00 in respect of Antiguan students sent to CMU for scholarships.

Since then, the students have not heard any updates from CMU, the Port Authority or the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.

Further, the Chairman is certainly mistaken in saying that the students have not been prevented from attending classes. We would like to bring to the Chairman’s attention that students did not receive financial clearance to register for this semester. The students have been prevented from attending classes and short courses, as well as, submitting assignments or tests as they have been blocked from the virtual education (Moodle) system. There is written correspondence directly from the school stating that they are “NOT to submit assignments” because they are “NOT registered”.

It is interesting that the Chairman would make these comments, when it is common knowledge that even the top student in the class, who is an Antiguan, was not permitted to graduate the past academic year and receive his degree.

In addition, we seek to clarify the Cabinet Notes reported in an article written by the Antigua News Room on April 8th, 2021:

“It was brought to Cabinet’s attention that EC$67,000 were owed to the Caribbean Maritime Union (CMU) for tuition and other expenses incurred by Antiguan and Barbudan students who are studying at the Jamaican tertiary institution.”

We are informed that the outstanding debt of over US$300,000.00  was not incurred by the Antiguan students. Instead, we have been informed by CMU that this is a debt owed by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and the Antigua Port Authority to the Caribbean Maritime University, which has been outstanding for several years.

This writer finds it interesting that the Government would seek to distance itself from its obligations to their students, which they have sent to Jamaica. These students are the recipients of government-funded scholarships, sent to Jamaica by the government to pursue logistics and maritime studies.

In fact, several students have asked CMU if the school would accept payment for the short courses through a loan or gift from family or friends of the students. CMU refused to accept payment from any source that was not the Government of Antigua and Barbuda or the Antigua Port Authority.

Despite several requests to the Honourable Prime Minister requesting an audience, the Honourable Prime Minister has yet to respond to the student’s cries.

These students have been abandoned in Jamaica indefinitely by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.

The students have said that they are feeling so frustrated and anxious about the situation, that they even have sleepless nights, not knowing if they will complete their education, as their scholarship promised by the Port Authority has not materialised.

The students are pleading for the intervention of their government as they face an uncertain future.

I sincerely hope that this continued injustice will soon be resolved and the correct information reported, so that our Antiguan students may complete their studies and contribute to our society.

Yours sincerely,

Cynthia Braithwaite

A concerned citizen

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