Pierre says his administration believes education reform is a key aspect of the social reengineering promised in their 2021 manifesto.
“This is probably one of the most telling and most important pieces of legislation that we are going to be passing. It’s [a form of] social reengineering. We are trying to cause as many people as possible to pursue their education,” Prime Minister Pierre announced ahead of Parliament’s commencement.
The House approved the government to borrow EC $9 million from the Caribbean Development Bank to help fund this initiative. The loan is repayable in 17 years after a 4-year grace period.
“This government has a philosophy of one university graduate per household. This [motion] makes this [goal] a reality. There’s going to be a guarantee function, particularly for people from low-income households. People who cannot afford will be able to have government guarantee the loan for them so that they can get a higher education. I am very pleased the [CDB] has agreed to fund this initiative,” Pierre continued.
Education Minister Hon. Shawn Edward underscored the importance of this recent programme among the other existing education support initiatives of the government. Another flagship education assistance regime by the government, the Minister adds, is the University Package Assistance Programme (UniPAS).
“We have provided opportunities for more than 600 Saint Lucians to pursue higher education. We are fully cognizant of the fact that there are students who still struggle to make ends meet in pursuit of a university education,” the Minister explained. To that end, he adds, the Ministry of Finance has made $500,000 available to the Ministry of Education to provide students with grants of up to $10,000 under the UNI-Pass programme.
“In addition to economic cost awards being given to Saint Lucians, for the first time in the history of our country, students who are enrolled at the University of the West Indies Open Campus can benefit from resources compliments the government of Saint Lucia,” Hon. Edward explained.
Economic cost awards have typically been given only to students enrolled at the UWI’s landed campuses in Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad. The Open Campus, based in Saint Lucia, will now be included in the government’s economic cost awards. Economic costs usually account for more than half of the fees owed to the school. These measures, the Minister highlights, will increase the number of Saint Lucian students obtaining tertiary education.