By Orville Williams
Education officials are assuring residents that the Board of Education’s scholarship programme will carry on as usual, despite the ongoing Covid-19 situation.
The pronouncement from Education Minister Michael Browne will come as welcome news to the scores of students who have applied, with hopes of securing valuable assistance for their studies.
The developments in various countries across the world have had a dramatic impact on educational systems, perhaps none more than in the US and, in a widely criticised move, the US administration previously issued a ban on current international students remaining in the country, if all their courses were moved online.
That ban was rescinded, but just last week the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that new international students who would sit strictly online classes this fall semester, would likely not be granted entry into the country.
This has invoked fear among students, with some – according to international media reports – worried that their scholarships will be revoked or suspended.
While there have been no such student travel restrictions enforced within the Caribbean, at least one country has discontinued its scholarship programme for the upcoming school year.
The Nassau Guardian reported in late June that students from the Bahamas would not be receiving scholarships, quoting Education Minister Jeffrey Lloyd, who said the “decision has been taken that there will be no external scholarships granted or awarded this year only”.
Lloyd further explained that, “this year, we have decided – because of the reduction in resources – that there will be no external scholarships. All ministries and departments have had, by mandate of the Ministry of Finance, a 20 percent reduction in their budget and obviously the $15 to $16 million scholarship budget has necessarily been affected.”
Understandably, concerns similar to these may be affecting Antiguan and Barbudan students, but speaking to Observer recently, Browne said “everything at the Board of Education continues as normal”.
The unpredictable nature of recent global occurrences will leave many students sceptical, but the minister added that “the application period opened at the start of January and closed at the end of May [and] the National Scholarship Committee are doing their considerations now. Everything is normal.”
The Antigua and Barbuda Board of Education provides bursaries and information about scholarships for nationals.