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UWI lockdown in Jamaica

UWI lockdown in Jamaica

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by Hawkins Nanton, UWI, Mona, Jamaica

Even while being tear-gassed by police, hundreds of students at the Mona Campus, University of the West Indies, Jamaica, “locked down” the institution early Wednesday morning, days after 3,200 of their fellow students were deregistered by that university.

By 4:15 a.m., students had all the gates on the compound chained and locked. They then formed a human shield behind the gates promising not to allow entrance from the outside by anyone. {{more}}

However, by 6 a.m., just before the media arrived at the university, students had to scurry for safety after police started firing tear gas at them.

“Me never know say so tear gas been so hot,” one student said in Jamaican patois.

Others started shouting defiantly at the police: “Murderers, blood ‘pon your shoulders kill I today you can’t kill I tomorrow.”

When the media came, the police showed them a bag of stones that students allegedly threw at them. Students were very alarmed at this accusation, since it was difficult to find a stone on the compound. A meeting with representatives of the Guild of Students was summoned at midmorning.

Friday, October 1, 2004, was given as the deadline for students to pay the university tuition fees for the first semester along with miscellaneous fees. They were then given a grace period to make payments by October 15.

Initially, some 5000 students had been facing deregistration; however, the figure decreased significantly after several students rushed to the Bursary to pay up. Prior to these recent demands by the UWI that fees be paid immediately, it was customary that fees be paid by November.

The Guild of Students submitted proposals to the university on Monday on behalf of students who could not pay, as to how they could get their fees paid, but this effort was futile.

The UWI is claimed to have blamed the students for not accessing loans the university made available to help forfeit the costs. However, several students on the other hand said that they were not aware of this programme.

Others complained that they are unable to pay on time because relatives in countries overseas affected by hurricanes, are unable to send monies at this time. Some students on scholarships are complaining that they are still awaiting finance. But in Jamaica, student loans are granted on a yearly basis and there is no guarantee that a student would be successful in getting one for the duration of his or her programme.

Meanwhile, there lies several challenging days ahead at the university with the coming on stream of liberalization which will be introduced on January 1, 2005. The Guild of Students has announced that it is planning to stage several mass protests against liberalization in the upcoming months.

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