Anna-Lisa Paul and Bobie-Lee Dixon
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Gate chaos at UWI
Students at the University of the West Indies (UWI) are in a “mad scramble” to meet the requirements of the new Gate e-Service, which was implemented by the Ministry of Tertiary Education and Skills Training on January 13. The new system will create online profiles for each Gate (Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses) recipient and eliminate the need for students to fill out and submit hard-copy forms each semester.
While the online registry will eliminate future trips to UWI’s administration building and make the application process ostensibly easier, students have been facing several challenges with actually getting registered over the past few weeks. With the deadline for registration set for tomorrow, the transition has not been smooth, with a system that some students say continues to crash and the need for students to present documents ranging from their UWI acceptance letter to their birth certificate.
Students: Mad rush, long lines
Venice Moodie, a first-year literature major, said she, along with the student body, received an e-mail on January 22 from the campus bursar and the Marketing and Communications Office about the new online system. It said: “The campus registrar advises that in order to access Gate funding at the UWI, all students will need to be registered for the Gate e-Service at the Gate Registration Centre (GRC). The GRC on campus is located at Daaga Hall. All students are required to visit Daaga Hall to register immediately.”
The bursar’s memo said students had to bring their “original birth certificates” to present to a Gate registration officer at the centre. Moodie said when she registered last week, she was required only to show her UWI ID card, while her friends were asked to present other types of documentation, including their national ID cards. “That’s one of the problems. Everybody getting different information and a lot of students don’t know what to do,” Moodie said.
She added that all of a sudden, a February 21 deadline was dropped on students, creating a “mad rush.” “And because of that the system keeps crashing,” she said. Alice Mathura, another literature major, said she lined up yesterday outside Daaga Hall from 6.30 am and got through three hours later with an estimated 70 people in front of her and 200 behind. “When you get closer to the front of the building you get a number and you wait for someone to call it,” she said.
Mathura had to present her birth certificate and national ID card. Still, the process for registration is not complete with this visit. Once an officer creates a student’s profile, an e-mail is supposed to be sent immediately with a username and password (which expires in 48 hours), through which students are required to scan and upload their UWI ID, acceptance letter and latest transcript.
“Plenty people don’t have something like their acceptance letter on them,” Moodie said, wondering why an acceptance letter was needed as proof of being a student, if a person already had a UWI ID. She explained it was difficult for students to have all the required documents on hand, in addition to finding a scanner to make digital copies. “Everybody struggling for a scanner to use. I just took a picture of it with my phone and uploaded that,” she said.
Once a successful profile is completed, the confirmation page must be printed and submitted to administration by tomorrow. Moodie said the campus was preoccupied with talk of the tedious process, saying the officers finished work the same time students were let out of classes. “It’s annoying,” Mathura commented, adding she was told the system could only register 200 students a day. Mathura said students could register at other Gate-funded tertiary institutions, including the School of Accounting and Management (SAM).
Marketing personnel from the accounting school said there were no issues with online registration for their students, which Mathura said was likely as she knew UWI students who registered there and found it easy and fast.
No official response
Several attempts to contact Theresa Davidson, director of the Funding and Grants Administration Unit at the ministry on Tuesday and yesterday were unsuccessful. Tertiary Education Minister Fazal Karim said on Tuesday he was unaware of any issues and did not respond to calls and text messages yesterday when contacted for a follow-up.
Campus registrar Richard Saunders forwarded all calls to UWI’s university and campus director at Marketing and Communications, Dawn-Marie De Four-Gill, who did not accept several phone calls, or respond to phone call messages and text messages on Tuesday or Wednesday.