UWI-SVM Class of 2020 gets Government funding for full 5 years
April 6, 2016: First year Jamaican veterinary medical students at the University of the West Indies School of Veterinary Medicine in Trinidad received very good news this week that the Government of Jamaica had decided to contunue to fund their tuition for the remainder of their academic programme. They graduate in 2020.
In early 2015, a Cabinet decision led to the discontinuation of the 85% subsidy given by the Ministry of Education & Youth for new dental and veterinary students attending their respective programmes in the UWI Faculty of Medical Sciences at St. Augustine as of the 2015-16 academic year. This was not communicated to the newly accepted applicants until they had gone to the school to matriculate. Following reports in the news media and a meeting with Executive members of the JVMA, the Ministry opted to fund the six veterinary students for one year, pending a further Cabinet submission on the students' behalf.
The decision to continue the tuition subsidy for their entire programme will enable the students to continue through to graduation, but with conditions. The following was the communication received by e-mail from the Ministry:
"The Government of Jamaica will commit to make payment for the present cohorts who were recruited prior to and in the academic year 2015/16 to the conclusion of their programme. However, the cost for reexamination of any subject/course due to failure or negligence will be the responsibility of the student. A progress report will be required for each student at the end of each semester".
The stipulation regarding examination re-sit costs, repeating of years and the progress report requirement would be applied to all students in years 1 through 5.
The JVMA plans to engage in further talks with the Ministry with regards to the future training of veterinarians, as the removal of the subsidy would apparently still be applied for new students enrolling in the 2016-17 academic year.
UWI School of Veterinary Medicine, Administration building, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Mount Hope, Trinidad. Photo courtesy of Briana Schwapp.
Jamaican First Year students, UWI- L-R: Briana Schwapp, Lydia Hutchinson, Racquel Oakley, Szarianne Khan and Brandon Clarke. Missing from photo- Steffony Green. Photo courtesy of Briana Schwapp
JVMA meets with Ministry of Education to discuss Government's decision to end UWI veterinary student funding
Veterinary Medical students at the UWI-SVM (Photo - Dr. Julie-Anne Small
Representatives of the Jamaica Veterinary Medical Association met on Wednesday September 30, 2015 with representatives ofthe Ministry of Education regarding the Government's decision to remove the 85% fee subsidy for students studying veterinary medicine and dentistry at the University of the West Indies’ St. Augustine campus in Trinidad as of the new 2015 – 16 academic year. The change was brought to the Association's attention because of the plight of six students who, having been accepted by the UWI-SVM, were only informed of the change during their registration process.
In a letter to the University’s Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal Professor Clement Sankat, dated May 5th, 2015, the Ministry of Education explained that the devaluation of the Jamaican dollar versus its United States counterpart has made it increasingly difficult for the Government to meet the financial obligation. The Cabinet, on March 30, 2015, approved the decision to end the 85% funding of new veterinary and dental students. Those already enrolled in their respective programmes would still be funded to completion with the caveat that the costs of re-examination due to any “failure or negligence” would have to be borne by the student, and progress reports would be required.
However, in an article in the Sunday Gleaner of September 20, 2015, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education is quoted as saying that the reason for the change is that the graduates have not been returning to give service to Jamaica on completion of their studies. This premise is unequivocally false as since 1995, there have been 57 UWI-SVM graduates registered to practice in Jamaica. Though some have left at some point to do further studies or take up employment elsewhere, some 41 are still resident in the island and working in both the public and private sectors. Four SVM graduates returned in 2015, six in 2014.
The JVMA is very concerned at this removal of the subsidy as it does not bode well for the future of the veterinary profession in Jamaica. Unlike our dental colleagues who have two local institutions accessible to prospective students, there is no institution offering a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine programme in Jamaica. We understand the financial constraints faced by the Government, but believe the idea of dispensing with the funding of veterinary medical training is misplaced.
In this era of emerging and re-emerging disease threats, the need for increased food safety and security, and greater multi-disciplinary collaboration in managing human, animal and environmental health, we cannot afford for an already under-represented arm of the overall health sector to be further weakened in the long term.
The September 30th meeting was cordial and enlightening for both sides, with the Government's difficult financial position being elucidated while at the same time the error in the Ministry's perception that veterinary graduates are not returning to serve the country was corrected.
The urgent matter of the six new students, currently in limbo at the UWI-SVM in Trinidad was discussed, but the level of assistance the Ministry was prepared to give could not be confirmed.
Options to ensure continued but structured support for Jamaican students to pursue recognized veterinary training were discussed and it was agreed that the Ministry and the JVMA would continue dialogue and collaboration on this matter.
Based on the Cabinet decision earlier this year, the last cohort of subsidized veterinary students at the UWI-SVM will graduate in 2019.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Julie-Anne Small
UPDATE: Ministry of Education will fund the six students for only one year.
The JVMA has been made to understand that the Ministry of Education has decided to fund the six new veterinary students enrolled at the UWI School of Veterinary Medicine in Trindad for one year and no longer.
As such, the students are now fully registered, have been issued identification cards and were able to sit their mid-term examinations.
However the question remains what will happen to these students for the 2016-17 academic year and beyond. Only those able to secure full funding will be able to continue.