By Demion McTair and Ashecia Sam
Kingstown (One News St. Vincent) – The government is looking into bringing home a group of students in Jamaica who have expressed an interest in returning to St. Vincent amidst the closure of The University of the West Indies, Mona campus.
The Mona campus suspended its classes until April 14, 2020 in response to Jamaica’s Covid-19 containment measures, but stated in an advisory that when classes resume, they would be online, eliminating the need for students to be on the campus.
In a telephone call on Star FM’s Morning Scoop program on Friday, Gonsalves said “I’ve been told by an official yesterday that about forty of them might want to come home because university is withdrawing the services, the university is closed”.
Dr. Gonsalves said “where they are staying, I don’t think they are throwing them out. In fact, I tried to get the Vice Chancellor yesterday to find out precisely what is happening”. He said, however, the students “are our own, they are our nationals and we have to try and relieve their anxiety, so, I’ve asked persons to look at that for me”.
Referring to a previous situation years ago where he brought home Vincentian students, Prime Minister Gonsalves suggested that a charter might have to be organized since flights are not going to Jamaica.
“Some have expressed an interest in coming home, but of course there is no flight coming there, so issues of charter… I mean when the hurricane struck a few years ago, you remember when the place was devastated and we brought out our students, it cost me sixty something thousand US, it cost the government sixty something thousand US” – Gonsalves said.
“Just like then, I got the message that Trinidadians took their students home. Well, Trinidad has CAL (Caribbean Airlines) and apparently, a CAL plane was leaving Jamaica going down to Trinidad to stay there. So, it was easy for the Trinidadian government to take them. I don’t know if the Trinidadian government would have sent a CAL plane specially for them because they didn’t even want to accept and didn’t accept the 33 elderly persons, Barbados had to put them up, of course at their own expense, at the people’s own expense” – Gonsalves added.
The Prime Minister said “I might have to pay for LIAT to go and get them. I dont know… umm LIAT might have to stop in Pueto Rico, in making the run… but those are just theoretical things”.
Gonsalves said there is still work to be done on the issue as all the names and numbers and other information will have to be collected.