Education minister: No external scholarship granted or awarded this year
Class of 2020 graduates anticipating scholarship funds to assist with funding their tertiary education will be disappointed as they won’t receive assistance this year from the Bahamian Government and the Scholarship Educational Loan Division, as Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd says the “decision has been taken that there will be no external scholarship granted or awarded this year only”.
“This year, we have decided because of the reduction in resources, that there will be no external scholarships. All ministries and departments have had by mandate of the Ministry of Finance, a 20-percent reduction in their budget – and obviously the $15 to $16 million scholarship budget has necessarily been affected,” said Lloyd.
The education minister told The Nassau Guardian that arriving at the decision had been “difficult”.
This, in effect, means that none of this year’s exceptional student graduates will be given the honor of being named 2020 All Bahamas Merit Scholar (ABMS) or receive the highest level of merit scholarship awarded by the government.
The National Merit Scholarship (NMS) is the second highest level of merit scholarship awarded by the government and can be awarded to multiple Bahamian applicants.
Lloyd said the decision is for this year only and that 2020 graduates can apply for scholarships again next year.
“It’s just for this year. They will be able to apply next year.”
Students already receiving tuition assistance from the Ministry of Education, he said, will continue to receive their tuition assistance.
Lloyd encourages graduates who cannot afford university tuition abroad without financial assistance to try to get into the University of The Bahamas (UB), and attend for at least a year.
“Excellent university! And if you still want to go off to university next year, apply,” he said.
The education minister says UB, which the education ministry supports, has the financial as well as the physical ability to accommodate as many students as they need to in the fall.
Generally, he said, the intake is between 500 and 700 students.
Naming two ABMS recipients in one year won’t be a new phenomenon. In 2019, Mahlia Neely and Dehron Smith were named dual recipients for the first time in the 25-year history of the prestigious award.
Neely, was a 2019 Queen’s College (QC) graduate.
Smith, a 2017 Nassau Christian Schools (NCS) graduate, received the award two years after graduating high school.
They were the 24th scholars to receive the AMBS since the introduction of the award in 1993.
The ABMS is valued at $35,000 per annum for up to five years, depending on the degree pursued, and is valued between $140,000 over four years or $175,000 over five years, dependent on the degree program and tenable at accredited universities locally or abroad.
The NMS has a maximum value of $25,000 per year for up to four years and is tenable at accredited universities, colleges or institutions, locally and abroad.
To be considered for the ABMS award, applicants must have a grade point average (GPA) of 3.7 and above, a minimum of eight BGCSEs (Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education) with at least eight A grade passes; have applied to or been accepted to an academically prestigious accredited college or university; have a Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) score of 1,220 and above; demonstrate excellence in co-curricular activities; possesses an unwavering dedication to improving the lives of Bahamians; and demonstrate a strong moral character and the potential to lead.
In order to be considered for the NMS, applicants must have a GPA of 3.5 and above; achieve an SAT score of 1,220 or higher; possess a minimum of seven BGCSE A grade passes; and have applied or been accepted to an academically prestigious accredited college or university.
With Neely having been awarded the ABMS scholarship, QC students have won the prestigious award in 10 of the 25 years, including: Aaron Edgecome (2018), Simone Cambridge (2016), Domonic McDonald (2015), Shannon Butler (2013), Kyle Chea (2006), Ricardo Davis (2000), Jehan Unwala (1997), Rhys Powell (1996) and Damian Forbes (1995).
Smith was the first student from NCS to be awarded the ABMS.
Scholarships and tuition assistance are granted through the Scholarship Educational Loan Division. Eleven scholarships are listed on the Ministry of Education’s Educational Loan Division’s website: ABMS, NMS, the National Academic Scholarship, the National Technical Scholarship, the National Tuition Assistance Scholarship, the OAS Scholarship, the Gerace Research Award, the Public School Scholars Programme, the Student Athlete Resources and Support (STARS) Programme, the Student Athlete Track and Field Grant, and the University of the West Indies Tuition Subvention.
Approximately 3,500 to 4,500 applications are made annually for consideration for the 500 scholarships meted out, according to the education minister.
The education minister encourages students to consider pursuing disciplines the country needs when making application for scholarship.
“Absolutely in the health area disciplines – not just being a doctor…but radiologists, technicians and so on; definitely in technology; definitely in agriculture; definitely in business – particularly in accounting and finance…desperate need, desperate need; [and] areas such as construction technology, engineering, desperate need,” said Lloyd.
The education minister anticipates schools reopening in the fall, but he says with a great portion of their matriculation being online, it will probably happen with some form of shift system to allow for physical distancing.
“It’s absolutely going to require you doing some kind of shift system – no question about it.”
The Bahamas confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on March 15, which resulted in learning from pre-school through university being shuttered to in-person learning and being moved to the online platform.
The Bahamas had 104 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths, 88 recovered cases, zero hospitalized cases, five active cases and completed 2,393 tests up to yesterday, according to the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard.
Worldwide there were 10,039,286 confirmed cases with 499,664 deaths.