KINGSTOWN, St Vincent, CMC – St Vincent and the Grenadines students in Jamaica wanting to return home amid the coronavirus (COVID-19, including locked borders, must each pay an estimated US$1,339 for a return flight.
In a letter to the stranded students, St Vincent and the Grenadines Honorary Consul to Jamaica, June Barbour, also warned that the airfare could increase if there are fewer than 56 students making the journey.
She said the Antigua-based regional airline, LIAT, of which St Vincent and the Grenadines is a shareholder, has quoted a cost of US$75,000 for a charter flight from Jamaica to St Vincent.
“This means that the fare for each person to travel, if the 56 persons quota is achieved is US$1,339.29. This is a discounted rate from US$101,420,” Barbour said, adding that the government is in the process of making arrangements to have LIAT’s officers collect all the payments for the flight.
“Please indicate as soon as possible if you still have an interest in travelling on this flight,” Barbour told the students.
The students were given the quotation weeks after one of them wrote to the online publication, iWitness News, an April 21 open letter to the National Student Loan Company, Ministry of Education and Bank of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Many of the self-funded students have returned home amid community spread of COVID-19 in Jamaica.
But some of the stranded students include those whose education are being funded by loans and scholarships.
In the letter published on the iWitness News website, the student wrote “a poll was conducted among us, which revealed that past the month of April, many persons funded by the disadvantage student loan would no longer be able to sustain themselves for the extended period of the semester. Against this backdrop, we call on the stakeholders of the National Disadvantaged Student Loan Scheme to investigate the unforeseen situation that has resulted in varying implications for students in this time of anxiety and concern.”
In a recent comment on radio, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said there were issues to be worked out to bring the students home from Jamaica and Cuba.
“And I point out that I’m in touch in Jamaica with our Honorary Consul Miss Barbour, Pam Barbour and I’m in touch with Ambassador John about Cuba. There are issues at play which we have to work out,” he said.