Thank you, Mr. Speaker for giving me the opportunity to address this Honourable House as well as the people of the Virgin Islands to briefly speak about the reopening of the V.I. Scholarship Programme.
Mr. Speaker, the scholarship unit at the Ministry of Education is now open for applications. The application submission deadline for the 2020/2021 Academic Year is September 30th 2019.
Mr. Speaker the majority of scholarships will be allocated to graduates from HLSCC for 2 years abroad. These scholarships will be in specified areas of study. For instance, you will have a specific number of scholarships in health related fields, technical fields, administrative fields, etc. These specified areas of study will be tied directly to the labour demands of the Territory. A listing of the specific areas for scholarships will be made available by the end of this month. There will be a specific amount of scholarships that will be open for any field of study, awarded to our highest achievers.
Only a specific amount of total scholarships will be awarded every year, and the process will be a competitive one, considering a student’s overall academic performance. Students without passes in 5 CSEC’s will not be disqualified, but all local and external exams will be considered in evaluating the students suitability for an award.
Mr. Speaker, the previous administration awarded scholarships to our differently abled students to attend the Vanguard School, located in Florida, USA. From the accounts of the parents, this has been an excellent experience for those young people. However, it is an expensive undertaking, costing the government $44,000 per student annually. We currently have 6 students in the programme, which amounts to $264,000 per year.
Over a 4 year term, this amounts to $1,056,000 for 6 students. Therefore, I am not adding any new students to the Vanguard Programme. Rather I will invest money into a local solution, which will benefit a greater number of students. Students currently in Vanguard will be allowed to continue until graduation.
Mr. Speaker, we are currently in the conceptual stage of the reconstruction of the Eslyn Henley Richez Learning center, and I will prioritize the awarding of scholarships in Special Education. I also plan to take a trip shortly to Vanguard to learn as much as possible how we might better serve our Special needs students locally.
Mr. Speaker, over the past 10 years we have allocated $44,982,712.79 into training our students. Scholarship students must sign a bond, but it is rare that the bond is enforced. Therefore, we have many recipients of scholarships who live and work abroad. While I encourage and support students getting some experience abroad, at some point the government must see a return on its investment. This government is taking measures to ensure that our scholarship students have a good opportunity to be employed in the public and private sectors, and hence, students on scholarship can expect for the bond they signed to be enforced.
This concludes my statement. I thank you Mr. Speaker.