Tabaquite Member of Parliament Anita Haynes has chastised the Government for reversing its own policy on GATE (Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses Programme) and announcing it as a new plan.
In his 2023 budget presentation on Monday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said the Government had adjusted the criteria for accessing GATE to permit students in good standing, enrolled in institutions and programmes accredited by the Accreditation Council of T&T, to qualify for GATE if they have completed an initial programme of studies such as a diploma, associate degree or the N1 level at UWI, and wish to upgrade to a bachelor’s degree.
However, in her contribution to the Budget debate yesterday, MP Haynes said it was the same People’s National Movement that imposed the restrictions on tertiary students in 2020.
“Do you know when those changes happened to GATE Mr Deputy Speaker? Early after winning the election of 2020, this Government, this PNM administration, embarked on the systematic closure of the very GATE they are now claiming to open,” she said.
Haynes explained that the Government amended GATE to restrict funding to no more than one programme at the undergraduate level.
She said they were now claiming to have the solution to a problem that they had created.
“I think the messaging here is obscene at this point, coming from the Government,” she said.
She described the Government as short-sighted for reversing a decision it made only in 2020.
“I am listening and I am appalled by the level of shamelessness that you can come here with,” she added.
In her contribution before Haynes, Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly urged young people to take advantage of the opportunities being provided in education in this country.
“Do not waste it, break the cycle,” she said.
Minister Gadsby-Dolly told students that regardless of what issues the world and T&T are facing at this time, educational opportunities are still there for them.
“Education may be free in Trinidad and Tobago but it isn’t cheap,” she said
The minister explained that funding is given to MIC, Costaatt, UTT, Ytepp and UWI and in this budget, $1.3 billion has been allocated to these institutions of higher learning.
She added that $178 million had also been allocated for 100 scholarships for CAPE students wanting to pursue tertiary education.
“Up to 450 million will be spent on GATE this fiscal year, 400 already allocated and more will be supplied in the midterm as necessary,” she said.
Gadsby-Dolly also reiterated the plans to keep the Vacation Revision Programme for a further five years and spoke about the initiative with the police to help reduce school violence, revealing that $150 million has been allocated to conduct crucial repairs to schools.