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‘You can’t hold it against a man if he does it at a second time’

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The criteria governing the award of National Scholarships have been changed, but it seems that few Vincentians were aware of this.{{more}}

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves on Wednesday told SEARCHLIGHT the rules “might have been updated as far back as 2005”.

However, Susan Dougan, Chief Education Officer, later disclosed in a statement on Wednesday evening that the rules governing the awards were amended in 2007, when the government increased the number of awards.

The issue of the criteria for national awards was brought into focus last week after Kimroy Walters was named a 2009 national scholar.

Kimroy is the son of Government Minister Selmon Walters.

Though young Walters performed creditably in his Advanced Level examinations, placing fifth overall, questions were asked as to how he was awarded a national scholarship when he was not a student at the Division of Arts, Science, and General Studies of the St.Vincent and the Grenadines Community College during the 2008-2009 academic year.

In 2008, the young man graduated from the College, but even though he did not attend the institution the following year, he requested permission to re-write his subjects as a student of the establishment.

Since the announcement of his name as a national scholar, persons aware of Walters’ situation have been expressing concern that the criteria for selecting national scholars were not followed.

The information on scholarships on the Government website (www.gov.vc) specifically relating to “Island Scholarships” sets out as one of the criteria that a student must be a graduate of the Community College in the year the scholarship is granted.

“What you saw on the website, that’s not correct,” said Prime Minister Gonsalves in response to a question from Searchlight, while explaining the criteria had been changed, but the Government website had not been updated.

“The old regulation that you have to be at the Community College, that’s gone,” said Gonsalves, adding that he had raised the issue before.

The prime minister disclosed that students are eligible for a national scholarship once they write their exams at the age of 19 or under.

“In fact, they have a regulation where they say you must be unmarried. I want to change that. It hasn’t appeared yet, but I don’t see if a fella is married why that should humbug him,” said Gonsalves.

He stressed that even private candidates are now eligible for national scholarships.

“You can’t hold it against a man if he does it at a second time. The important thing he has achieved the grade before he is 19 years. You can’t discriminate against a fella for that,” said Gonsalves.

Dougan, in her statement, said the Ministry of Education had learnt that many persons are not aware of the rules governing the issuance of the award of National Scholarships.

She disclosed that a candidate could compete for the scholarships by sitting either the University of Cambridge General Certificate of Education (GCE) or the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) or a combination of both.

The subjects sat should include Communication Studies or Caribbean Studies or General Paper and at least 3 others at the Advanced Level or CAPE units 1 and 2 or a combination of both.

Setting out the other rules, she said any student who forwards a written application and produces evidence to the satisfaction of the Cabinet should be eligible to be a candidate for the scholarships, provided that: He or she will be less than 20 years of age on the date of the examination for the scholarships; He or she is a Vincentian national; He or she has been educated in the state for three years preceding the day of the commencement of the examination; and he or she is unmarried.

She disclosed that all candidates listed for this year’s awards were under 20 years of age on the date of the commencement of the examinations.

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