PNPYO president wants emergency grants for tertiary students

PEOPLE’S National Party (PNP) candidate for St Andrew West Rural Krystal Tomlinson is urging the Government to provide emergency grants to assist tertiary-level students.

She has recommended an emergency financial grant of $25,000 to help students cover their living expenses during the COVID-19 crisis, and another grant to cover costs associated with tools for virtual learning.

“Some students are not able to return home because there is really no liveable situation to go home to. And they are living on their own, still having to pay rent and meet those basic needs of keeping those utilities on, and, of course, covering Wi-Fi to access classes at this time,” she said, addressing a digital press conference hosted by the Opposition party last Friday.

Tomlinson, who is also the president of the PNP’s Youth Organisation (PNPYO), is also asking the Ministry of Education to provide an emergency virtual learning grant of $25,000 to help students purchase tools to access their programmes online such as “the laptops, the tablets, which are now necessary for the virtual learning platforms that universities have switched to”.

Tomlinson said students who receive these grants could be bonded to community service and technology innovation programmes, which can contribute to the country’s recovery efforts after the crisis.

“So any student who access[es] one or both of these grants would be required to participate, in the months ahead, in whatever community service work that is needed to bring back a sense of normalcy to Jamaican communities,” she suggested.

Tomlinson said buried in the crisis is also an opportunity which could empower families to feed themselves through radical investment in agriculture in the form of backyard gardening and urban, rooftop agriculture.

She said, too, that under the initiative, seedlings could be provided to households free of cost to cultivate crops, with the requisite support from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority.

“It’s an investment in the future, and if you do it at the right scale we are looking at an opportunity for crop sharing across communities and income generation — if it is sustainable over the medium to long term,” she asserted.

At the same time, she also appealed to The University of the West Indies and all other tertiary institutions to extend the payment deadlines for second semester fees to August.

“This will afford those students and their parents more time to supplement income; seek grants, scholarships, and work opportunities, and thereby gain greater financial stability,” she explained.

Tomlinson asked, too, that finalising students be allowed to sit their examinations, including final exams, but that those grades and degrees be held until they can clear outstanding balances.

Meanwhile, she described the COVID-19 crisis as a watershed moment in the country’s history, which requires an extraordinary response from all Jamaicans.

The PNP candidate argued that there are individuals who were already teetering on the margins of society who will now need extraordinary protection to prevent them from being swallowed by poverty.

Tomlinson said her recommendations seek to target those people.

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