STATEMENT BY MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, CULTURE, YOUTH AFFAIRS, FISHERIES AND AGRICULTURE
HONOURABLE NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
AT FOURTEENTH SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2020
Mister Speaker, I am pleased to be able to make a statement today on the Scholarship Programme which is administered through the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture. Despite the trying and unprecedented times the Territory is facing today, the Government of the Virgin Islands remains committed to providing the financial support necessary for its people to have access to tertiary education.
This past August, Mister Speaker, for the first time since the Territory was devastated by the two major hurricanes in 2017, this Government was pleased to be able to award thirty two scholarships in various areas of study including medicine, nursing, engineering, law, social work, agriculture, food and nutrition, construction management, automotive technology, and teacher education The process was a competitive one which saw well over ninety applications being submitted for consideration. All eligible applications were brought forward for consideration and applicants were interviewed by the Virgin Islands Scholarship Committee.
Let me pause at this time, Mister Speaker, to thank the members of the Scholarship Committee for their diligence in carefully reviewing the applications, conducting interviews and making recommendations to ensure that students from a wide cross sector of disciplines were recommended for this year’s awards. Since I have not previously spoken about the Committee in this Honourable House, Mister Speaker, allow me to highlight the Chairman, Mr. Julio Samuel Henry and members of the Committee: Mrs. Patricia Archibald-Bowers; Ms. Sharia De Castro; Mr. Richard C. deCastro; Ms. Livia Freeman; Dr. June Samuel; Mr. Khoy Smith; Ms. Shaina Smith; Ms. Rekeema Turnbull; and Ex Officio Members - Mrs. Kishan Cupid-Brathwaite, representing the Department of Labour and Workforce Development; Ms. Kaisa Penn, representing the Department of Human Resources; and Ms. Sasha Flax, representing the Sister Islands. Mister Speaker, this Committee was carefully selected based on their various areas of expertise to allow for a well balanced approach in considering applications for scholarships. It was important to me, Mister Speaker, to ensure that the Committee consisted of persons in some of the major disciplines that drive our economy such as law, medicine, education, the technical field, financial services, the business sector, and of course the human resources sector, both private and public, and the Department of Labour and Workforce Development.
Mister Speaker, every well-functioning programme must have an appropriate structure to guide it. The Scholarship Programme is no exception and is guided by the Virgin Islands Scholarship Programme Policy which was last updated in 2014. This policy provides the framework that guides the awarding and administration of all scholarships. In the daily operations of the Scholarship Unit within my Ministry, it has been noted that there are various areas which the policy does not address as well as areas of ambiguity.
Mister Speaker, we have also recognised the need for the policy to be revised to give further direction to the scholarship programme to ensure its sustainability and to better support the training and workforce needs of the Territory. Therefore, in addition to recommending applicants for scholarships, the Scholarship Committee recently completed a thorough review of the Scholarship Policy which we expect to submit to Cabinet before the end of this year so that the new policy can guide the next review of applications.
Mister Speaker, as the Government continues to provide opportunities for eligible candidates to pursue tertiary education, I wish to inform the public that the scholarship application process recently reopened on 15th September, 2020 for the awarding of scholarships for the 2021/2022 academic year. In 2020, the application process was hosted online for the first time in its history which proved to be a success. However, as the Ministry continues to streamline its application processes as part of the ongoing public service transformation plan, thanks to the tremendous effort of the Department of Information Technology (DoIt), the application process has been migrated to a new platform. This has resulted in the reformatting of the application form and submission of supporting documentation to make for a more user-friendly experience. With the new system, applicants will be given a user profile and will be able to track their applications.
Additionally, the Ministry will now be able to contact applicants directly through the system. Applications can be accessed online on the Government’s portal, www.bvi.gov.vg by selecting ‘Featured Services and Information’ then ‘Education and Training’ followed by ‘Scholarships’. The public is advised that the closing date for the submission of applications is 15th October, 2020.
Mister Speaker, despite the current economic climate, this Government continues to support its people in their academic pursuits. Providing scholarship opportunities is one means through which the Government can continue to support our students’ quest for knowledge and personal improvements, thereby enhancing the development of this Territory. Throughout the years, Mister Speaker, the Government of the Virgin Islands has invested millions of dollars to train our people, so we must ensure that going forward, we have a better coordinated effort to ensure that when our people are trained, they are also positioned to hold key positions in both the public and private sector.
Mister Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to update the public on the Scholarship Programme.