UNC wants to know: Is GATE available?

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday


Tabaquite MP Anita Hayes at the UNC’s media briefing on Sunday. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

Tabaquite MP Anita Haynes is calling on the Education Ministry to explain what she called a concerning development with the GATE programme where people are being asked to pay the funds up front with a promise of reimbursement, even after qualifying for 75 per cent coverage.

Speaking as shadow Education Minister at the Opposition’s weekly media conference, Haynes said she had been approached by parents about the matter.

“They are being told, after completing the means test that the government implemented and after submitting all of their information, that they have qualified for 75 per cent assistance. However, that assistance is not forthcoming and therefore students are unable to register for classes, unable to participate in their tertiary education. The parents are being told they have to put the money up front, and they will be reimbursed.

“The whole point of the means test is that you didn’t have the money to put up front. So you have students who have gotten the required grades and filled out the means test, being barred because they are unable to find the financial resources and in then some instances when they take loans or scrape up the money somewhere, they are then told because they were able to get money in that one instance, they may not qualify for assistance for tertiary education.”

Haynes called on the ministry to respect the public enough to provide the data it has collected about the return of children to schools so far. She said the ministry should have been collecting data while children in Forms Four, Five, and Six were returning to physical school.

“When there’s a meeting of stakeholders, they should be presented with the data that the ministry has that is informing the policy is proposing, and then you have informed and productive consultation, because we’re sitting here with access to the same data and we’re making decisions to the same end. Instead you have the Ministry presenting a decision that has already been made and then asking for your opinion on it, saying that they are the decision makers, this is what they want to do, have your say here and then they’ll make an announcement. I think that’s not efficient, it’s not productive, and it will not give us the best results for the students in this country.”

She also noted reports that schools have not been provided with sanitising supplies other than bleach and an extra cleaning cloth. She said teachers have been reaching out to parents to assist in getting supplies to keep students safe.

Haynes said the ministry has not provided up to date data on the number of students who are still unable to attend physical schools. She said a number of students had not been promoted within the school system because they were unable to fulfil the attendance requirement.