REGIONAL: 1500 UWI students without Internet access take leave of absence

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(Jamaica Observer) – AT least 1,500 University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona students have applied for leave of absence from their studies because they were either without Internet access or did not have devices to access their online last semester.

This was disclosed recently by Sujae Boswell, president of the UWI Guild of Graduates, in an address at the virtual Rotary Club of St Andrew North Education Foundation’s grant awards ceremony.

According to Boswell, although UWI, Mona had sourced tablets and laptops on behalf of students, a number of them could not afford data charges to be able to access their classes online.

The university was forced to shift classes online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Boswell said while the Guild Fresh Cash financial aid programme seeks to assist students in need, it is still not enough to meet all the requests.

“We are anticipating that for the upcoming semester there will be deregistration of a number of students, although, in specific cases, the miscellaneous fees have been reduced. However, the tuition fees, quoted in US dollars, remain the same, but the real Jamaican dollar cost has increased, based on the current exchange rate, compared to the J$135 to US$1 previously used,” said Boswell.

He thanked the Rotary Club of St Andrew North Education Foundation for assisting seven students for the upcoming semester, to the tune of $235.000. The students attend The UWI; Jamaica College; St Andrew High School for Girls; Merl Grove High School; Ardenne High School; The Queen’s School; and Calabar High School. Each student will receive a grant to cover lunch, transportation or school fees, depending on the need that was identified.

Donald Patterson, director of the foundation, announced during the virtual awards ceremony that since its incorporation 24 years ago, about 100 students have received grant assistance from funds earned on investments, or through fund-raising efforts by the Rotary Club of St Andrew North Foundation.

Boswell, meanwhile, encouraged the club to go beyond the financial support provided by the foundation to that of social assistance to both students and parents who are undergoing challenges because of the pandemic.

“We have been seeing an increase in the mental issues among young people during this COVID-19 period because, with students being home, a number of them are getting depressed and stressed arising from their environment, lack of equipment and online access that they need to continue their education. This is primarily because their parents cannot afford to assist them,” said Boswell.

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