Former Tertiary Education Minister Fazal Karim expressed concern over the fall in student enrolment at COSTAATT. Responding to the front page article in the Guardian Newspaper on Monday 22, January 2018 headlined “COSTAATT contracts”, Karim indicated that the GATE changes introduced by the Rowley-led PNM are now manifesting in low student numbers across all tertiary institutions.
Karim advised that COSTAATT was established with a very important mandate of “providing broad-based access to socially responsive and innovative educational programmes…” This includes providing education access to single parents, retrenched workers, students from underserved communities, secondary school leavers without the prerequisites to enter into university level training, and the like.
Karim noted that under the People’s Partnership Government, enrolment at COSTAATT exceeded 11,000 students, whereas the PNM’s GATE changes have caused student numbers to drop by at least 30 to 40 per cent. Contrary to the PNM’s contractionary policies, the People’s Partnership Government undertook expansion in nursing and allied health care at El Dorado and new campuses in Sangre Grande and Chaguanas. The Rowley-led PNM has caused mayhem, fear, panic and frustration among members of faculty, staff and students at COSTAATT.
Karim reported that under the People’s Partnership Government, GATE funding was expanded to over $700 million while the PNM has cut GATE to $450 million. Even with this unjustified and irresponsible cut, tertiary institutions are not being paid their GATE monies on time, with the consequence being severe cash flow problems. Reports are emanating from some quarters that tertiary institutions are owed GATE monies in excess of 24 months.
Recalling the recent woes at the Trinidad and Tobago Hospitality and Tourism Institute (TTHTI), Karim indicated that TTHTI was forced to deny access to students who are dependent on GATE financing, and further that TTHTI has threatened legal action against the Ministry of Education for monies owed. The gross mismanagement of GATE disbursements is jeopardising all tertiary institutions in Trinidad and Tobago.
The PNM does not have a plan for education and training in Trinidad and Tobago. Tertiary education continues to be side-stepped by this PNM regime, in spite of the need for knowledge and innovation to fuel diversification and international competitiveness. Karim bemoaned the fact that, had he been Minister with responsibility for tertiary education, institutions of long standing such as COSTAATT, UTT and UWI would have never been in dire straits as experienced under this PNM regime.
While the PNM continues to spread fake news to the population, that there are no resources to support the GATE Programme and other social programmes, hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ monies are being misappropriated on dubious projects, which are by no means of equal importance as educating our citizenry. Political patronage is trumping rational socio-economic planning and development. The foolhardy PNM policy measures, if sustained, will result in an under-educated and unemployable population well into the future.
Karim urged both, Ministers of Education, Anthony Garcia and Dr. Lovell Francis, to address the timely payment of GATE monies to institutions with expediency, instead of bickering over protocol in the public presence of the education fraternity. He further called on the PNM to rescind all of the changes to the GATE Programme introduced by the Rowley-led PNM, as the evidence suggests that the policy has failed miserably.
MP for Chaguanas East