‘Free UG’ not forgotten; online scholarships countering space limitations

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Two years into the Irfaan Ali presidency, the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) government continues to insist that although it has not happened yet, the University of Guyana (UG) will soon be free for locals.

Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo reassured on Tuesday that the manifesto promise was not forgotten and will be delivered before the end of Dr. Ali’s first term in office by 2025.

Already, the government has distributed some 6, 000 online scholarships under the Guyana Online Academy of Learning (GOAL) with another 4,500 to be awarded this year. The ambition is to award 20, 000 online GOAL scholarships by 2025.

Jagdeo said the government is now focused on getting as many people as possible to access the online scholarships and complete the tertiary level programmes.

He said this is important if citizens are to support the government’s vision to transform the country and prepare for future jobs.

“This is vital if we are going to manage the type of country we are trying to build,” the Vice President said while addressing residents of Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) on Tuesday during an outreach at the Anna Regina Secondary School.

Residents of Region Two who are recipients of a GOAL scholarship during a meeting with Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo (Photo: Ministry of Education/March 22, 2022)

But the Vice President has identified two issues; one is the space limitations at UG once it becomes free.

“One of the reasons for online programmes is that the existing physical capacity of the university cannot handle what we want to do… a lot of people may not be able to travel because of cost,” Jagdeo reasoned.

But he also observed that while the GOAL programme will help in this regard, people are also now tasked with ensuring they qualify for these tertiary level training.

It is for this reason that he believes GOAL is complementary to the government’s vision to make UG free for locals.

“The GOAL programme will not undermine the University of Guyana… that is repressive thinking. They have limited space there,” Jagdeo reasoned.

He proposed the implementation of a remedial programme to expand the pool of potential for university programmes.

“We have already achieved the goal of universal primary education and we are about to achieve universal secondary education, so we have to grow the population further with tertiary training,” Jagdeo said.

The sum of $1.3 billion was approved for the Guyana Online Academy of Learning (GOAL) in Budget 2022.

This sum forms part of the wider $2.8 billion allocation approved for the provision of training, including government scholarships.

Some $15 million has been allocated towards the Centre of Excellence in Information Technology (CEIT); local training also accounts for $20 million; local continuing scholarships got a total of $298 million while continuing international scholarships will cost $407 million.

A sum of $567 million was approved for new international scholarships with another $50 million approved for the provision of other costs including care packages for students.

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