In an anonymous letter penned to Antigua Chronicle, a beneficiary of a government scholarship has alleged total disregard and a serious breakdown in communication from Chairperson of the Prime Minister’s Scholarship Committee Maurice Merchant and students like herself.
The letter, emailed on November 10, 2017, cites its author as a student still based overseas and still very much reliant on the scholarship support.
It reads, “I am writing this letter to publicly express my grievances as well as my disappointment in how the scholarship department of Antigua, more specifically Mr. Maurice Merchant, treats the students studying abroad.”
“The first thing I thing any scholarship student would complain about,” the letter continued, “is the lack of, if not complete absence of communication.”
The writer maintains that despite receiving a scholarship, the agreed upon stipend and costs have not been consistently maintained by the government. The student goes on to state they have tried on several occasions to contact the Committee Chairman, Mr. Maurice Merchant but to no avail.
It was pointed out that in grave situations, some students have been expelled from their respective universities due to the constant delay in tuition payments, while others have been forced to take up illegal employment to cover basic costs.
Before penning this piece, Antigua Chronicle sought clarification from Mr. Merchant, who initially declined “respectfully” to comment “as it (the letter) makes several allegations without any specifics and it appears as if it’s from an anonymous writer, so I cannot address the allegations directly.”
He did however seek to shed some light on the student’s concerns, clarifying that it is near impossible for him to communicate directly to the over 1500 students under the Committee’s charge.
“While I will admit that it is impossible for me to speak with each of the over fifteen hundred students we have, you can rest assured that we try our best to address each person’s concern in a timely manner,” Merchant said.
He admitted further, “The funds are indeed late for various reasons and we depend on the Treasury of Antigua and Barbuda to work with us according to their means and they have been trying their best under the circumstances.”
The Committee Chairperson went on to note that his office is not without its own challenges when it relates to collecting scholarship revenue.
“We are however working at ensuring that we meet all of our obligations to the students in the coming weeks.”
Merchant cited as unfortunate the writer’s decision to bring this situation to the attention of the media “even though they themselves have noted that they have spoken to the individuals who work within our offices, but obviously not satisfied with the answers they received.”
Below reads Mr. Merchant’s response.