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Jan 28, 2013

UB students’ small protest

While teachers will show their strength on Tuesday in Belmopan, this morning, the capital was also the venue for another protest. A group of students staged a small protest over government’s decision to cut off subsidies to the university.  They say they want government to re-instate the funding because fees are unaffordable to new students. Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

That’s the rally cry of some one hundred and fifty plus students expressing their discontent with the Ministry of Education for discontinuing a subsidy to the University of Belize.  As early as nine a.m., students from the Belmopan campus gathered on the compound and then made their way through the streets of the Capital to the steps of Independence Hill in front of the Education Ministry.  Several persons took turns to speak including former Student Government President, Moses Sulph, who is known for the  2005 demonstration which led to a riot and looting in Belize City.

 

Moses Sulph

Moses Sulph, Nation Builders

“In 2006, we had thirty-two percent poverty. In 2006, we had twelve percent unemployment. In 2006, the honorable minister, Patrick Faber, who was then as aspiring minister said that the economy was too bad to have a fees increase. Now it’s 2013, there is a forty-four percent poverty rate; higher than thirty-two. There is a twenty-four percent unemployment; higher than twelve percent. But yet Mister Faber is saying that we should have a fees increase; something is wrong. The economy is even worse than it was in 2006; hence there should not be a logical reasoning in increasing fees.”

 

Kaila Moralez, a past UB graduate, stood in solidarity saying that the future of the younger generation must also be taken into consideration.

 

Kaila Moralez

Kaila Moralez, Demonstrator

“I’m a past graduate of the University of Belize. I also have a four year old daughter and I have to bear in mind that sooner or later, I will be sending her to the same institution. So it should be in my interest to support the idea of not increasing the school fees because I will also have to foot a bigger school fee in the future when my daughter grows up. I can see evidence in the government spending that they can afford not to increase the school fees. The evidence that I see; if they can afford to have a whole program for gang members, they can divert some of those monies towards students. Education changes behavior.”

 

Oniesha Flores

Oniesha Flores, Belmopan Student Government

“I did my own personal research and I went to the statistical unit and I got some data and it was shocking to know the situation we are living in. With that in mind, the government should find measures or ways to improve the situation in the country.  I’m currently enrolled in the bachelors program and I will be finishing next year. So it won’t directly affect me, but I have to think about my brothers and sisters that are coming up [and] my friends.”

 

President of the Student Government Association and Board of Trustee Member, Hope Amadi, says that the numbers represent a mere one percent of the student population because many are fearful of victimization.

 

Hope Amadi

Hope Amadi, President, Student Government Association

“I am happy today; I am very happy today if all Belizeans can listen and hear the echo in the background. That is to tell you that I am not standing alone. At the campus we had almost close to two hundred students; what happened is that some of them dropped back as we were coming. We have a lot on campus that didn’t come out because they feel intimidated. Most of them have families that are working as public officers and they don’t want their faces to be scene and they don’t want to lose their jobs or scholarships. If you are a new student and this is your first in school, you will pay more; if you are an old student and you defied one semester and you coming back this semester, you will pay more; if you are changing program, you will be considered a new student and you will be paying more. So these are the tricks that the government, the minister is using. So, students have to understand that eventually everybody will have to pay it.”

 

Duane Moody

“How effective do you think this is going to be in getting a change? In getting government to say we will continue with the subsidy?”

 

Hope Amadi

“Rest assure this is just the starting point. I want Belizeans to understand that yes they showed me on television saying that it was not only me, now they could believe me. Now they could believe me.”

 

But today is the final day for registration and life on campus appeared normal. According to Public Relations Officer at the University of Belize, Selwyn King, the number of students registered remains unaffected by the events and is fact, even higher than last year’s.

 

Selwyn King, Public Relations, University of Belize

“Universities all over have had the tradition that the voice of students needs to be expressed. Universities have served as that space for the leaders of tomorrow.”

 

Monica Bodden, Channel 7

“Will the students who took part in this morning’s demonstration be penalized in any sort of way?”

 

Selwyn King

Selwyn King

“No, it is just like if a student who calls in sick and who doesn’t attend classes will find a way to catch up. Classes were held as usual; there was no cancellation of classes.  The numbers pertaining to registration as of last week—you are aware that today is the last day of late registration—the numbers as of last week was three thousand eight-hundred and sixty-eight. For the same period last year, we had three thousand three hundred and thirty—so we have exceeded in terms of numbers for the registration. Registration of new students, three hundred and thirty-three. Last year, same number was two hundred and three. So we have exceeded the numbers in terms of the registration.”

 

Nevertheless, Amadi says that they will rest at nothing until they get the government’s attention.

 

Hope Amadi

“We are asking the minister to reconsider. We do not want to go to the point of riot or try to cause problems on the street; we don’t want to get to that point. This is a peaceful demonstration—we just walk and say what we want. And this is just a prelude to what can happen if we decide to go up to something else. We don’t want to go to something else. We just want the minister to listen and do what is right.”

 

Amadi says that on Tuesday they will join teachers in solidarity. Duane Moody for News Five.

 

The Minister of Education, Patrick Faber, says that government owes UB close to four million dollars. The subsidies that are discontinued amounted to two hundred and forty five dollars per new student, per semester.

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5 Responses for “UB students’ small protest”

  1. Storm says:

    I hope most college students are smart enough not to follow Amadi off the cliff.

    There is no RIGHT to a free or subsidized college education. Once you’re an adult, you cannot expect others to pay your way. If you want something, it’s your responsibility to pay for it. Grow up, get a job — $350 dollars isn’t impossible to go out and earn, even if your family can’t help.

    College education is a good investment, maybe the best one you can make in life. Many of us worked hard and sacrificed, especially in terms of social life and luxuries, to get through college, and never regret a minute of the struggle. It’s worth it.

    I think UB and the private sector financial institutions should talk to each other and try to create a sustainable student LOAN program, where students can borrow money if they make regular progress through college, and repay it over a few years when they graduate. My bet is that some international organization would even find a means to underwrite or guarantee part of such a program.

  2. Rod says:

    Bout time unu pick up unu head and demand change this corrupt pm and gov. Have been stealing all unu money all the ministers have big fat bank accounts which will soon be exposed.

  3. inthediaspora says:

    The last thing Belizeans students need is for college to become more expensive and less accessible. It is already shocking that so many intelligent young people do not even get as far as UB. How unfortunate for more roadblocks to be put in their way. UB should be looking for ways to offer full tuition scholarships to top students, not taking away what little aid they already offer.

  4. inthediaspora says:

    I must have missed something: what exactly is an increased enrollment supposed to prove in relation to the cut in the subsidy? All it shows is an increased NEED and DESIRE for a UB education. It does not prove students can now afford to pay more easily now without it. Selwyn is an old friend of mine, but he’s got to be able to come up with something better than that…

  5. Seletar says:

    “We just want the minister to listen and do what is right.”

    Just one question: How is it RIGHT for you to make somebody else pay for your college education instead of working and paying for it yourself? How is it RIGHT that you become my burden?

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