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UWI student petition

Sherie Holder-Olutayo

UWI student petition

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TWO STUDENTS at the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill are waging a fight against the implementation of tuition fees.
 Heather Grazette-Corbin and Paula Hunte-Cox have organised a petition, having accumulated over 600 signatures from UWI students, to urge the Barbados Government to delay the implementation of tuition fees. Citing the recent layoffs and the hard economic times as key factors, Grazette-Corbin and Hunte-Cox feel that many students will be unable to continue studying at UWI as a result.
 “We created a petition that basically stated due to economic times we felt that the way the fees were implemented was not consistent with what people are going through,” Grazette-Corbin said.
 “Yes we knew we had to pay fees at some point and time. We said in the petition that the last year students should continue paying what they’re paying and for the others within the system there should be increments instead of a big fee.”
 Back in March, UWI students received an email outlining the tuition costs that they would be required to meet by September. Both women are now required to pay more than $6 000 to continue their studies.
 “I’m a first year student who started this past September,” said Grazette-Corbin. “For me it means that there is a possibility of not returning to UWI and doing what I want to do because of the way the fees have been implemented and the amount that they are in a short space of time to accumulate. Plus both my children are in UWI as well.”
 With a daughter in her first year at St Augustine in Trinidad and a son about to enter his last year at Cave Hill, Grazette-Corbin is keenly aware of the financial demands of tuition that are lurking in a couple of months. Since she only works part-time, the financial needs of her children’s education are more pressing than even her own.
 “It would mean that I would have to leave,” she said sadly. “It’s my son’s last year and he’s studying science because he wants a career in forensic science and my daughter has just started. The only thing I pay for her is her room and living expenses.”
 Mindful of her son’s degree nearing completion, Grazette-Corbin is willing to sacrifice herself for him to complete his studies.
 Hunte-Cox, who will be going into her final year is facing her own concerns. Both women had delayed their academic studies to raise their own children who are now grown and in college. This was their opportunity to fulfil a lifelong dream that had been deferred.
 The response for the students to the petition was encouraging despite the fact that the petition was circulated during exams. The women said students were ready to take action over the imposition of fees. However when the women approached the Cave Hill Campus Guild of Students they were unable to get assistance.
 “I guess because they’re not just a student body but they’re a lot of legal implications they have to deal with,” said Grazette-Corbin.
 Though the Guild has made its own attempts to stave off the implementation of fees, including trying to negotiate with the government and even staging a protest in Independence Square, many students like Grazette-Corbin and Hunte-Cox were unaware of their efforts.
 “I told them we were not aware of what they had done and told them that they did not expose the students enough to this,” Hunte-Cox said. “It’s a political thing in some ways, they too are afraid to mash corns and have gotten a lot of flack. They told us that there is a legal framework that they have to work within. The Guild is bound by certain parameters of the university.”
 Hunte-Cox had suggested getting a table and putting it on the Guild lawn so that students could see them as soon as they drive in. But according to Hunte-Cox the administration told the guild if they signed off on that, it would seem as if they’re going against the university, so it was politically incorrect for the administration to sanction that.
 However, outgoing president of the Cave Hill Campus Guild of Students, Damani Parris, said they would have liked to help but had limited resources at their disposal. He also stated that it would have been problematic getting the necessary permission on short notice.
 “There’s always a difficulty in doing things on short notice,” Parris said. “I recall us having to seek permission from university officials so that in terms of insurance the university is covered. We agreed this was an activity we wanted to have done, but because of the needed permissions, it was impossible on short notice.”
  “When they talk about all these policies we could as well not have a guild to represent us,” said Hunte-Cox.