Kaieteur News – The first tranche of the government’s 20,000 on-line scholarships is about to be awarded. It is being reported that as many as 6,000 persons will be given their awards soon.
Most of those who applied will be fortunate to receive their on-line scholarships. But others will not be that successful and will either have to wait or try again later.
The word ‘scholarship’ to describe the offerings of the Guyana Online Academy of Learning (GOAL) is a misnomer. The word “scholarship” has been misused and abused for a long time in Guyana.
A scholarship is a grant-in-aid of a student’s studies. A grant-in-aid is not repayable. But in Guyana, the awardees of the GOAL programme, as are other government scholarship awardees, will have to repay through the provision of community service. And if you are repaying then this cannot be deemed a scholarship but rather an advance or loan which is being repaid, partly or wholly in kind.
The purpose of the GOAL programme is to provide the awardees with exposure to university studies, using an on-line mode which is cheaper and which is the sole reason that the government can afford to offer 20,000 scholarships.
The programmes offered under the GOAL initiative range presently from the Masters Level to Certificate Level. For example, one of the programmes offered is an MBA in health management. Another one offers a certificate in Jewellery making from the University of the West Indies Open Campus.
A number of the programmes require no entry requirements. The degree programmes however require five subjects at CSEC. This latter requirement will limit the pool of qualifying applicants because it is believed that more than half of the students in the public school system do not obtain five subjects or more, including Mathematics and English.
Seeing that the programmes are being offered by international universities, it would be impossible for the admission requirements to the respective programmes to be watered-down. Moons ago, the University of Guyana had allowed alternative admission requirements and had even at one stage introduced an entry examination for those without passes in English and Mathematics.
The public service too many years ago used to insist that entrants must have five subjects CXC or GCE. But because of the high failure rate, they began lowering the academic requirements for entry-level workers. This lowered standards in the public service by allowing unqualified and under-qualified persons to gain employment.
This partly explains the mess which the University of Guyana and the Public Service finds itself in. The lowering of admission requirements for jobs and university education has led to a decline in standards. The quality of some university graduates leave much to be desired.
Having said all of that, it is unconscionable for the government to be financing on-line courses and then, in return, demand that students repay through community service. If you are awarding scholarships to students, award them and not ask for repayment in return because when you do, it is no longer a scholarship.
You do not repay a grant-aid. And since a scholarship is a grant-aid it does not become a scholarship if the beneficiary has to provide services (payment in kind) upon the completion of the programme.
One of the reasons for granting scholarships and bursaries is to award excellence. Students who have done well academically in their studies are usually rewarded with scholarships. To ask these same students to repay through community or other service, is effectively telling them that what has been offered to them is not a grant but a loan which they have to repay.
There is nothing wrong with asking students to repay the sums which were expended on their education. But please, do not call it a scholarship if the awardees have to repay in cash or kind.
So how much exactly are these scholarships costing the government? They government has not given a cost for the courses which form part of the scholarship but it cannot be that expensive considering that some 4,000 scholarships on average will be awarded each year over the next five years.
The recipients of these scholarships will have to repay through community service. But what is the value of this service in relation to the cost of the scholarship. If the potential awardees of the GOAL programme check they realise that they can register free for online courses and pay only a small fee for the certificate.
It is truly amazing that in Guyana, scholarship awardees have to provide national service. This makes a mockery of the awards.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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