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Bunting says UWI should consider financial strain caused by COVID-19

People’s National Party (PNP ) spokesperson on Education, Peter Bunting, said the University of the West Indies should be mindful of the economic strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bunting made the comment in a release on Thursday (July 30) referencing a local media report which revealed that students at UWI Mona would be required to pay more for their tuition fees in the upcoming academic year.

While fees remain the same as last year, the amount required for students will be higher as courses are priced in US dollars.

“It is unconscionable for students to be expected to cough up hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional expenses, just days ahead of the start of their respective programs,” said Bunting.

“Educational institutions should be acutely aware of the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy generally, and more specifically, on the pockets of Jamaican families,” added Bunting.

While Bunting acknowledges that enrolment levels would inevitably fall as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,  he believes that the figures will be greatly exacerbated by the heightened tuition fees.

Bunting further expressed concerns about the lack of a comprehensive plan to treat with the commencement of the 2020/2021 academic year.

The current exchange rate is nearing $150 JMD to $1 USD, despite recent interventions from the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ).

The BOJ has intervened in the foreign exchange at least twice since the start of the pandemic with the BOJ admitting earlier in May that they were in a crisis as supply had dramatically decreased.

“We are in a crisis and what I say to the people demanding dollars is, bear in mind that the supply has been dramatically truncated. We can’t have everything that we want in this period,” said Governor of BOJ, Richard Byles, while speaking at the central bank’s Quarterly Monetary Policy (QMR) Report in May 2020.

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