It is hoped that scholarship awards are truly coming out of the closet

Dear Editor,

The article captioned, ‘Dep’t of Public Service says working on transparency for scholarships  -in aftermath of ministers controversy’ refers (SN, April 6).  I like this signal.  It would be a most welcome departure from the old, the secretive, and the objectionable.  There is, too, the opportunity in so doing for lasting multi-faceted benefits to this nation.

Traditionally, scholarships do not attract as much attention and comment as, say, housing or jobs, unless some egregious awards have been made. They were. Housing and jobs involves thousands, are high profile public concerns, media friendly issues, immediate, and physical.  On the other hand, scholarship awards are somewhere over there and out there, are behind-the-scenes, and touch a few score at most. So the process is easily managed, and lends itself to the obscurity of the periphery.  The scholarship constituency is too small, and personal objections can be effortlessly parried as the anger and bitterness of those denied.

In so doing, however, there is the real high probability of the truly deserving and meritorious candidates being sidelined for the most unacceptable of reasons.  This has happened all too frequently and for endless decades.  Now if senior people in this society insist on speaking of meritocracy, then one of the planks has to be scholarship criteria, awards, and the attendant transparencies.  The benefits could be immense.

There is the best and brightest identified; there is the selection of high potential with possible high performance and delivery to follow in both classroom and boardroom; there is the stealth benefit of a tangible contribution to social cohesion by recipients and their families, especially when they are from the other side.  Appreciation and allegiance to the taxpayers that financed higher education may take precedence over the political party that is believed to be owed, and which perpetuates the ugliness that disfigures this land.

Editor, think about this: those applying and who should be seriously considered for scholarships most likely hail from multiple communities in this small society.  Having been treated objectively and openly, they could grow into ambassadors who, having experienced honesty can now rise, and spread the words about balance, fair play, and clean opportunity.  They can transform into rallying points and rallying examples.  Others are given hope; others may trust.  As an aside, I mention that when patently average and middle level applicants are chosen for scholarships, then a lifetime of mediocrity results, and groundbreaking lost, generally speaking.

In terms of transparency, I would urge the responsible ministry and its experts that for this to be well received there must be some strong emphasis on the qualitative, rather than the quantitative and subjective.  Meaning that in addition to subjects, grades, areas of need, and areas of intended study, there must be other criteria brought to bear.

Such criteria should include tangible involvement in such spheres as domestic violence, suicide, poverty, mentoring, and depressed communities, to name a random few.  If this is construed as a backhanded slap at twenty subjects, it is.  The well-rounded, (exposed-to-life’s hard-knock realities) student who is bright enough and dedicated enough to do without lessons, and then manifests interests beyond the school grind, ought to be recognized.  Making this among mandatory criteria could introduce a sea change in how high school education is perceived in this country.  This instils empathy, provides real world insights, highlights local concerns, and prepares future leaders.

I hope that scholarship awards are truly coming out of the closet.  It is hoped that the underpinnings of awards would be even more commendable.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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