Late this week a colleague received an email regarding a scholarship with a deadline set for mid-next week. Given the nature of the discipline associated with the award, requested was a litany of supplemental documents that conceivably would require a lot more than the six days she was left to work with. When you factor in the weekend, better to make that just four days at her disposal.
This immediately drew my ire. It was not the first time I had encountered a situation where a scholarship was being advertised just before the cut-off point. I have actually seen announcements made one day before the deadline date. If someone out there knows how to secure in Saint Lucia in one day a police record, official transcript, and medical certificate, please, do tell.
I’ve often had cause to wonder if the recipients had already been selected, and whether the formality was just to publicize the kwass. Fully rankled, I made a beeline for the website of the organization responsible. To my great surprise I discovered the information had actually been posted well in advance of deadline.
This brought to mind a story the paper ran last week about a young St Lucian who had just received a scholarship from the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Education Foundation (CHTAEF). Out of the 48 applications from 13 Caribbean countries, only two were from St Lucia. Considering that the Tourism and Hospitality Industry has become the backbone of this nation, this is baffling.
Could it be that our people are not applying for these opportunities? With the droves of students graduating from Sir Arthur Lewis Community College every year, added to the many others on this island thirsting for better days, it is hard to imagine they are not clamoring to fill out these applications. Or have we finally become so discouraged by the current climate on the island?
Earlier this month, at a Budget breakdown seminar, chartered accountant Richard Peterkin pretty much summed up the woes facing our workforce today: “We really have issues and these issues are with low productivity, inadequate skills and people not being properly educated. If the people had better skills and more education we would not necessarily be able to absorb everybody, because the number of new jobs being created is very small.”
He then went on to say: “As long as we have those issues of low productivity and inadequate skills, it means that even where there are sectors that are improving and generating more growth, unemployment will not change in those sectors that don’t employ a lot of people or have to bring people in to perform the kind of skills necessary.”
Tourism is one of these industries where it appears high-level positions are constantly being outsourced. So there should be no reason why we only have two applicants for a hospitality scholarship.
What, then, is the problem? Are we not being proactive? I know several people who have the Ministry of Education website bookmarked and scour the page as part of their daily routine. When I wanted to go off to university, I met the requirements for the school but not for the Ministry’s scholarship. However, I did not let the fact that I did not attend Sir Arthur stop me. I had worked for years, done my SATs and felt just as qualified as anyone else. After a series of letter writing, I was finally added to the mysterious list I had been hearing about. Moral of that story: Take a risk because, well, you never know.
There is an issue in the United States where it has been found that African American students are not taking full advantage of the opportunities presented them. Their belief is that their Caucasian counterparts will be chosen anyway, so what’s the point.
A similar situation exists in St Lucia—where nepotism is alive and well and thriving in our is who you know culture. But will that ever change if we continue to buy into it?
So keep on searching, people. Apply for those scholarships (when they are actually advertised, of course). Especially in our present circumstances, surely we can ill afford to pass up even the smallest of opportunities!