Students serving in hinterland will not be required to repay tuition loans
--says GINA.
Guyana Chronicle
June 18, 2002

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HINTERLAND scholarship awardees, who return to serve their communities after completing their programmes, would not have to repay the cost of their tuition.

According to a Government Information Agency (GINA) report, Public Service Minister Dr. Jennifer Westford disclosed recently that the hinterland scholarship programme aims to make Guyana’s interior locations self-sufficient by targeting the local residents, who should return to serve their communities.

Minister Westford said it is difficult to get qualified coastlanders to serve in the hinterland.

“We have this policy where anyone who is coming from one of the Regions for higher education at the University of Guyana, once they would have returned to their area of residence, they would be exempt from having to pay any student loan or anything,” the Public Service Minister revealed.

Emphasising the continued vibrancy of Government’s scholarship policy, Dr. Westford said that approximately 70 students have proceeded on programmes for the year already and some 150 more will leave for Cuba shortly. “This batch is specifically going to be concentrating on the medical area, since you are aware of our flight of professionals from that specific entity,” she said.

Pronouncing on the recent surge of foreign recruitment of skilled Guyanese professionals, Dr. Westford said Government is making checks into the legality of this phenomenon.

The migration of skilled professionals, she said, has intensified this year. “Initially we saw those professionals leaving the country. Now it has intensified (to the point) where those countries are sending persons to recruit (Guyanese).”

Even though Government is checking into this “brain drain” of skilled Guyanese, she noted, this would not stop the flight. But a programme of managed migration is being speculated.

“What my Ministry is actually looking at is seriously formulating methods by which the country can gain from this type.”

This foreign recruitment is not unique to Guyana, but occurs in all Third World countries, Dr. Westford said.

“We are looking (at having) negotiations with these countries which are recruiting our skills to see how we can work out a package where we can train persons for them. So that we will know that every two or three years how many professionals they will need and we will then do that based on some arrangement. We will know they will not take more than 100, so if we train 300, at least we will have 200 to buffer our system,” the Minister explained.

Meanwhile, Dr. Westford revealed that her Ministry is looking at ways of improving terms of employment for professionals, especially educated professionals. These include salaries, allowances and other benefits.

The Minister admitted that because of the economic state of the country, remuneration cannot be matched with those of developed countries. But she expressed the hope that a sense of patriotism would dissuade some professionals from migrating.

“Most of those persons have been trained with tax-payers’ money, (and we hope) that they would consider Guyana’s circumstances,” Dr. Westford appealed.

Penalties are in place for persons who break scholarship contracts but the Minister noted that in some instances these are bypassed. While some professionals pay the price of breaking their contracts, this is not what Government requires. Those payments cannot compensate for the loss of skills, Dr. Westford emphasised.