Stop the GATE madness

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
August 10, 2016

Dr. Kwame NantambuThe recent policy decision by the People’s National Movement Government to revamp the Government Assistance for Tertiary Expenses (GATE) programme is indeed a most welcomed and long overdue move.

The fact of the matter is that adult citizens of this country both under and over 50 years of age have been abusing and dismembering this State funded programme for years.

As someone who has been involved in tertiary education in the country for over ten years, I can provide prima facie evidence/proof of that afore-mentioned conclusion. The stark reality is that as per my grade report sheets of many years , the record shows/reveals that there were some students who had taken my course titled “Caribbean Studies” once, twice and even three times, period.

Sometimes, I wondered why students even venture to turn up and sit the final exam. Their answer(s) was/were a total disaster and as their lecturer, I had to endure the pain of grading their supreme nonsense. I had NO other choice but to suffer peacefully through that exercise.

The stark reality is that Trinbagonians both under and over 50 years of age are and have been spoiled/accustomed to too much freeness from the State, period. This writer is firmly convinced that if those students who repeatedly failed my course had to pay out of their own pockets, as in salary, every time there is a repeat; or in other words, if the tuition cost was immediately deducted from their salary, then, none of that repeat free nonsense would exist.

As long as the money does not and did not affect, as in lessen, their personal disposable income, these Trinbagonians both under and over 50 years of age just did not care, period.

In addition, this writer would feel safe in guesstimating that over 85 per cent or more of these ‘lucky’ students do not come from households whose monthly income lies between $10,000 to $20,000. These are NOT poor student/people. They are NOT among the “least of these” in our society. That must be clearly understood. They are NOT among the “have-nots” in our society. They are the “haves.”

These ‘lucky’ students are well-paid public servants, teachers, law enforcement employees, private sector employees, etc. They are NOT catching hell, 24-7-365, period. They are de jure members of the middle-class, well-off people. And to prove/validate this factual reality, this writer is publicly advising the Minister of Education that when the tertiary education semester starts in early September 2016, that he should send internal auditors/advisors to monitor and count the exact number of cars in the parking lot, for example, of Cipriani College of Labour and Continuing Studies, between 7 p.m. -8 p.m. when these ‘lucky’ students are in class. The same must be done at other tertiary educational institutions who receive taxpayers money via GATE. Enough is enough. This Trinbago academic tertiary chupidness, as in madness, must stop NOW, period.

The stark reality is that 95.99 per cent of students, as in adults, both under and over 50 years of age in tertiary education DRIVE to attend class after leaving their full-time, well-paid job. That’s a fact. This writer would not dare to indicate the model of car these students/adults drive, except to emphasize that they are NOT a poor person’s vehicle, period.

The fact of the matter is that NO employee in the URP, CEPEP or OJT State-sponsored/funded programmes could afford to drive the cars these ‘lucky’ students/adults drive—at least per legal means.

At this juncture, I would like to sincerely “thank” all of those students who voluntarily gave me a ride either into Port-of-Spain to catch a taxi to get home or who dropped me off in my front door after class. “Thank you.”

However, the time has finally come for everyone to bite the harsh economic bullet. Reality check is on, big time. This tertiary education freeness must stop and it must stop NOW, period.

Now is the time for all Trinbagonians to clearly understand/realize that when the GATE programme was introduced by the then Patrick Manning (may he rest in eternal peace) government in 2004, money was no problem. Today, however, money is the problem. Ipso facto, revamping GATE is the only solution, period.

Indeed, this writer must hasten to bring to the fore that Trinbagonians both under and over 50 years of age are more than willing to pay from their salary $3,000 to $5,000 and counting to buy a bikini-clad costume to wear on carnival days. Why, because they have got the additional expendable disposable income by not paying for their tertiary education. Let the government pick up the slack. Now, because of the global financial/economic hard, albeit uncertain times, this same government is forced to say to the citizens of this country: “My fellow citizens, we all must pick up the slack.” That’s it. No more mass in yuh mass!

As usual, Trinbagonians would rank and rage (and some will agree) at and with this new policy decision but as the academic dust clears, everyone would come to the sane conclusion that revamping the GATE program was indeed necessary/vital to maximize the public good and the public purse.

In the final analysis, the public policy decision to revamp the GATE programme was the modus operandi of “government of the people, by the people and for the people” at its zenith.

Shem Hotep (“I go in Peace’).