Over 100 students will benefit from bursaries under the Access to College Education Programme (ACEP) within the next five years. This, according to government Senator Carlos James while addressing an award ceremony for this year’s recipients at a press conference in Kingstown on Tuesday.
According to Senator James, over 35 students from North Leeward so far have benefited from the bursary programme with a further 70 to be added within the next five years.
The Access to College Education Programme was launched in 2014 through a youth-based charity group, Generation Next Inc., with the aim of providing financial assistance and equal opportunities for students desiring to attend college from vulnerable families in the North Leeward constituency.
James noted that while the government’s policy on universal access to primary and secondary education has reduced the number of school dropouts at those levels the number of students who enrol in post-secondary institutions from rural areas can improve.
According to Senator James the Access to College Education Programme was designed to assist more students from rural areas in accessing post-secondary education. He stressed that while there are students from rural communities who are academically gifted; vulnerabilities such as financial constraints prevent them from accessing tertiary level institutions.
“From the list of applicants to this year’s programme 54% were from unemployed households. So immediately we see how important this programme is in assisting families who are vulnerable. We are not able to assist every single student but the awareness regarding the programme is seeing more persons expressing an interest in advancing themselves academically,” Senator James said.
James noted that he is hoping this programme will receive greater national support as he sets his target on having at least one college graduate per household in North Leeward over the next 10 years.
“The aim for at least one graduate per household is a challenge, but nationally we have seen our numbers pertaining to enrolment and graduates increase significantly. Overall we have 3, 866 more students completing CSEC from 8, 531 in 2001 to 12, 397 in 2012 while 1, 289 more students completed Advance Level Certification from 1072 in 2001 to 2361 in 2012,” Senator James acknowledged.
James further stated that over 700 more students obtained Associate degrees while 1000 more students accessed university as compared to 2001 figures.
Meanwhile, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education Senator Deborah Charles noted that programmes such as the Access to College Education Programme are good initiatives to follow.
“We need more persons, especially young persons, to take an active interest in empowering the youth of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and I want to commend Senator James on this initiative,” Senator Charles said while delivering remarks at the ceremony.
Senator Charles urged the recipients to take advantage of the opportunity available to excel in their chosen career path.
This year’s recipients on the Access to College Education Programme will be pursuing courses in various disciplines including economics, computer science, mathematics, environmental studies, sales and marketing, paralegal studies and technical and vocational programmes at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College.