A new online system to access the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE) programme has put students at The University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine in panic mode.
The system, which was rolled out at the St Augustine campus during the last week of January, was not announced via national media by the Ministry of Tertiary Education and Skills Training (TEST) but through e-mails from the UWI.
Hundreds of UWI students are only just learning of the mandatory eGATE registration.
Students say they fear they may be deregistered if they are not able to meet UWI’s registration deadline which is tomorrow because after signing up with TEST for the eGATE they still have to wait 24-48 hours for an e-mail that will allow them to complete the UWI registration process.
The Express received phone calls on Tuesday from concerned students who had waited for more than two hours to get the username and password from TEST, which had set-up shop at the Daaga Auditorium, only to be turned away.
“We were told by one of the ladies from the Ministry that they were only taking 100 students and that everyone else would have to come back on Wednesday.
“We were here since before 8 a.m., which is the time they are supposed to start, so we may have to camp out from 5 in tomorrow morning,” a student who called the Express said.
When the Express visited the UWI yesterday there were once again long lines outside the Daaga Auditorium from as early as 7.30 am although the processing was scheduled to begin at 8a.m.
The processing of students did not begin until around 9.15 a.m. after the staff from the Ministry arrived. Two of them started handing out numbers to students who had managed to get one of the few seats under a tent that was set up just outside the meeting rooms at Daaga Auditorium.
Other students, who lined the pavement and the walls outside of the auditorium, questioned why the Ministry of Tertiary Education and Skills Training chose to implement an online system to access GATE in the middle of the academic year.
“Why didn’t they wait till the new academic year to implement this or at least announce it nationally so everyone would know at the same time. If we don’t register on time we could be deregistered,” one student said.
A UWI official explained that the Ministry employees at Daaga Auditorium were giving students user names and passwords that will allow them to go online and register if GATE is paying for any part of their tuition. “This must be done before UWI’s deadline, which is on Friday. The Ministry is the one who is supposed to let the students know since December about this but they didn’t send out anything so the university decided to send out e-mails,” the official said.
Officials from the Ministry said if all went well they were hoping to process 300-400 students yesterday, but students who attempted to register the day before had only managed to process just a little over 100 students on Tuesday.
The student who initially called the Express on the issue said up to yesterday afternoon there were still long lines outside the Daaga Auditorium although the Ministry officials had already stopped giving out numbers for the day.
“I got through today because a friend told me she did it at TTConnect in Chaguanas so I went there but I don’t see how all of the people are going to be able to register by Friday, because after you sign up you still have to wait on an email from GATE so that you can register and all of this has to be done by Friday,” she pointed out.
When the Express contacted UWI’s Marketing and Communications Department for comment on the issue we were told that the only person who could comment on the issue was Dawn-Marie De Four Gill, the Director of Communications and she was in a meeting at the time and we should try back in an hour for her. When that call was made she was still unavailable as she had subsequently stepped out of the office for another meeting.
Attempts to reach the Minister of Ministry of Tertiary Education and Skills Training, Fazal Karim on his cell phone for comment were unsuccessful as the phone went to voice message continuously.