Right now, a little over 4,000 students countywide are currently in 4th Form, and they're only a few months away from taking their CSEC Exams - better known as CXC's.
Now, these exams aren't cheap, and at the beginning of the year, Prime Minister Dean Barrow promised in his 2014 New Year's Message that the Government of Belize would cover the costs for 6 of the exams for needy students. The requirement is that the parents of these students needed to have applied to the Ministry of Education for the subsidy on or before last week Friday.
To ensure that the needy families are the ones who are receiving this financial assistance, the Department of Human Services went out to survey and assess the families who applied for it.
The Survey was completed by the Department of Human Services, several months ago, and the Government of Belize set aside a budget to accommodate around 1,600 of the students. The parents of approximately 640 students applied, and just over half of them were accepted. The rest were rejected, and upon further consideration, the Ministry decided that instead of forcing those families to go through a complicated and tedious appeal process, they will pay for all students, whose families applied early.
Education Minister Patrick Faber explained it in a press briefing today:
Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education
"There have been some glitches in terms of rolling this initiative out and so because the funds are there and because we want to help the maximum amount of people, what we decided to do is to assist all of those who applied. Now, clearly, there are those who did not apply and that is an issue for us. We want to make sure that we don't favor those person who think they can pay. That is a major criticism that came for the free tuition issue, remember back in the Esquivel administration - that there were many people who could pay and of course if they can pay they should pay their way, so we toiled with the idea of paying for all those who signed up for CXC up to 6, but decided in the end just to go with those who apply. Now, what I want to be cautious of is that we don't set a bad precedence - I want to be clear to people that in fact the way we had gone about trying to get information so that we could pay for these CSEC examinations, is exactly what the ministry and this administration believes in. It's just a matter of ease on this first leg that we are doing it in this manner to pay for all those who apply."
Faber explained that the Ministry previously extended the deadline up until last week Friday, and even though there may be families who are in dire need of this subsidy to pay for the exams, the cut-off remains because the payments would be too late in getting to the CXC Examination's Unit, which routes it to the Caribbean Examinations Council.
For those families who have already paid, but have applied for the subsidy, whenever the Ministry makes the payment, the Minister hopes that the schools will reimburse them, or route the payment over to other outstanding fees for that student.