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By Theresa Goodwin

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Prime Minister Gaston Browne has said that he is willing to convene a meeting with Antiguan and Barbudan students who are currently pursuing studies at the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) in Jamaica.

The students are hoping to dialogue with the nation’s leader to discuss outstanding financial issues between the university and the government which has resulted in their being barred from receiving the certificates and other documents required to show that they have completed their courses of study.

Browne spoke briefly on the matter yesterday, saying, “today is the first time I became aware that they were trying to meet with me. I am willing and able to meet with them whenever they want.”

Earlier on Wednesday, James Stevens, a top student at the school who has been affected by the decision of the university, shared that little or no information has been divulged about the matter and there appears to be a difference of opinion between the Antiguan government and CMU about the amount that is owed.

“We just want to have a detailed meeting to outline what it happening. We understand that we are still dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and things are hard. However, the Antiguan government should also understand that we have families that we need to support and we would have sacrificed four-plus years studying hard and we need to know what is going to happen going forward,” Stevens explained.

When the news regarding the plight of the students was first reported in early April, the government said CMU had yet to reconcile several of the payments it had made to the university.

The administration later announced that the students should be able to commence classes as reconciliatory talks continued, noting that the government had fulfilled its financial responsibilities to CMU.

However, James said the students’ inability to receive their various certificates is stunting their progress, since they cannot be gainfully employed without proper certification.

“We have external programmes to complete and we need all our certificates because we cannot embark any vessel without having these certificates,” he said.

He added that while students who are yet to finish have now been cleared to register, they are facing another major hurdle.

Approximately 18 nationals have opted to pursue studies at the Jamaica-based university where they are pursuing courses at various levels of maritime instruction.