Gov’t says systems are in place to monitor how scholarship funds are utilised

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A government official has confirmed that systems are in place to recover funds from scholarship awardees who have failed to complete their courses of study, although they have received monies to do so.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas was responding to a question that was posed by a reporter at Thursday’s post-Cabinet Press Conference.
The question was in relation to a section in the weekly Cabinet notes that indicates that the Prime Minister’s Scholarship programme enjoys a 90 percent success rate. It also pointed out that fewer than 10 percent of awardees who are funded do not complete their degrees.
“There are times when persons would have fallen off for whatever reasons, but the committee engages them. At the end of every year they have to return their transcripts, and where there are issues, there is a process of engagement,” Nicholas said.
According to the Minister, the measure is not meant to be punitive, but rather the government’s way of ensuring that scholarship recipients are held accountable for the financial aid they receive.
Meanwhile, chairman of the Prime Minister’s Scholarship Committee Maurice Merchant has also presented to the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda a comprehensive review of the annual programme, which was started in 2013.
According to the information contained in the weekly notes, the number of scholarships climbed to 544 in 2017, the last full year that has been accounted for.
The scholarships were mainly for studies in Cuba, China, Estonia; the bulk, 145 was awarded to students pursuing studies at the three University of the West Indies campuses.
It was also noted that $15 million was spent in 2017 and for 2018, 1,689 scholarships are being supported by the Prime Minister’s Scholarship Programme. The budget for this year is $21 million.
Since 2013, the priority subject-areas for scholarship funding have been the natural sciences, to include chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics, and teacher training. Other areas include hotel management and the liberal arts.

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