UWI students block gates in protest demanding 2014 grades

UWI_PROTESTPORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Wednesday January 21, 2015, CMC – Students at the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) have blocked the gates to the institution demanding that they receive their grades from their exams last year.

Lecturers have refused to file the grades as they protest the non-payment of an estimated TT$87 million (One TT dollar=US$ 0.16 cents) in arrears owed to them.

The West Indies Group of University Teachers (WIGUT) has said that the non-uploading of marks’ is still in effect “until a satisfactory response from Campus Senior Management is received concerning the payment of arrears in salaries”.

Public Relations Officer with the Students Guild, Nikoli Edwards, said that the estimated 18,000 students have been caught in the middle of a dispute between the lecturers and management.

He said while the Guild had no issue with the payment owed to the lecturers “our issue is with using us as a bargaining tool.

“Outside of this present situation, we support the lecturers and we have made that clear to WIGUT,” he said, adding that the UWI administration “needs to do whatever they need to do to get the money to pay off these lectures.

“But to say we are standing hand in hand with the lecturers during this time that is not the case,” he said.

“We will not allow the lecturers to continue to hold us at ransom, to hold us hostage over grades because you have regional and local students who need their grades and their transcripts in order to access funding.”

He said there were students who cannot return to Trinidad and Tobago “unless they get funding from their institutions….”

There had been media reports quoting Tertiary Education and Skills Training Minister Fazal Karim that the Trinidad and Tobago government had stepped in to pay the money owed.

Karim said that senior officials of the ministry had met with WIGUT and the campus principal Professor Clement Sankat to address the matter.

But Edwards said the Guild has received no official communication on that matter.

“At this moment we have not been written officially or informed officially by (UWI) administration or any government official as to what the government intervention will or will not be. As it stands we are still proceeding to intensify our actions in the confines of the university.”

The registration period for students has been extended to February 20 but Edwards said “this is not enough and will not ultimately fix the situation”.

Edwards said that the students’ protest action “is more about making a statement, showing the lecturers that we are united, showing anyone, be it the government, the administration that the student body has come together and going forward with one voice”.

Edwards said the Guild is also examining whether legal action is an option reiterating that the students will continue to “form a human barricade around the campus.

‘Today we have intensified our protest action, we come out tomorrow…and we have been communicating with the student population as to what they want,” he added.

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