(Jamaica Observer) Scores of tertiary level students who were barred from sitting their final year exams because of outstanding school fees were yesterday given more time by the University of the West Indies (UWI) to pay over the money owed.
The extension followed meetings held at the Mona campus in Kingston between the institution’s administration and the student government after an ugly protest by some students.
The irate students told the Jamaica Observer that the university last week advised them that they would be required to take a card, showing that fees were paid, with them to exams. Students who had not paid their fees would then be barred from sitting exams yesterday.
Some of the disgruntled students disrupted exams in progress, reportedly overturning desks and chairs and ordering fully registered students sitting exams out of examination centres.
The police had to be called in to quell the disturbance.
But after the talks yesterday, president-elect of the UWI Guild of Students, Daniel Wilson said students were somewhat mollified by the extension.
“The move by the UWI will see students who were not allowed to do their exams being offered an extension of up to three months to cover these outstanding fees,” Wilson told the Observer.
He said the agreement will also allow students to take the missed exams at a later date, which is an improvement on the original position of the school, where students in arrears were to be given a failing grade.
At the height of yesterday’s dramatic events, minister of education, Rev Ronald Thwaites said that he understood the severe hardships experienced by many persons who attempt to get a higher education, but insisted the way forward always included negotiation
“A well-run university depends on trust between students and administration. Students must be responsible, pay the agreed fees or exercise options to secure leeway by negotiation,” read yesterday’s press statement from the minister.
He also said that he was disappointed that the students had not availed themselves of the ‘open door’ policy he had offered when he first took office.
Meanwhile, Opposition Jamaica Labour Party spokesperson on education, Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert said she empathised with the students. She called on Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to “…act as a matter of urgency in fulfilling the promise she made to UWI students last year, by implementing a mechanism that will allow them to sit their final exams notwithstanding tuition arrears”.
UWI officials insisted that they gave the students sufficient room for dialogue on the new policy which stipulated that those who owed upwards of $30,000 would not be allowed to sit the exams.
More than six exams were postponed yesterday.