As an educator, Dr Sterling Frost finds it disheartening to see students with immense academic potential undergo severe distress due to an inability to finance their education.
“This age-old but burgeoning issue, particularly throughout the last two years, continues to challenge universities globally to mobilise support for their student populations, at increasingly robust and innovative levels,” Frost said.
As a result of these financial strains Frost said, the UWI Development and Endowment Fund (UWIDEF) has been ramping up efforts to make a maximum impact “by offering a lifeline” to as many students as they can, who are most in need of that financial help.
Speaking during the Campus Council Meeting last week, the Principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI) St Augustine Campus Prof Rose-Marie Belle Antoine outlined how financial constraints have been affecting students.
She said despite the institution offering the lowest degree costs out of all regional campuses, during the 2021/22 period, student enrolment numbers for undergraduate and postgraduate programmes decreased by 8.7 per cent and 28 per cent respectively.
Previously, both undergraduate and postgraduate students had access to the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE) programme, which provided free tuition to candidates.
Now, however, undergraduates and other students have to undergo a means test to be able to access varying levels of funding.
Frost said the result of UWIDEF efforts has been overwhelmingly positive!
“The UWIDEF is extremely pleased that we have been able to appeal to that inherently Caribbean trait of ‘lending a hand,’ resulting in a growing network of partners.
This includes individual donors who have repeatedly made contributions to the fund, and most hearteningly, hundreds of ordinary citizens who have supported our ventures not because it will benefit a loved one or friend but simply because they too, believe in giving our students the best chance they can to secure academic success.
“In fact, most of them will remain unknown, but certainly not unappreciated, for their kindness and generosity,” Frost said.
In this vein of trying to assist students, UWIDEF has included a new event in its annual fundraising calendar.
UWIDEF has raised funds primarily through the staging of two major annual events: The UWI Carnival Fete and The UWI Golf Challenge.
“You may recall that last year we held the inaugural Garden Party, and we plan to expand our suite of fundraisers on the UWIDEF’s calendar because the UWIDEF remains a critical resource in paving the way for deserving students to pursue their academic dreams, undeterred by financial constraints,” Frost said.
On April 2, at the Daaga Auditorium, two distinctly Trinbagonian chorale giants—The Signal Hill Alumni Choir and The Lydian Singers—will be featured in a double-headlined benefit concert, titled Ignite.
The Signal Hill Alumni Choir, founded in 1984, remains the standard-bearer of Tobago’s chorale culture. They bring a unique and rooted folk style to every performance.
The choir is renowned for its accomplishments in the T&T Music Festival Folk categories and since the early 2000s has performed in North America, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean with performances at the UN Assembly, and before global icons Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Queen Elizabeth II.
For the UWIDEF Benefit Concert, Signal Hill Alumni Choir will present the essence and vibrancy of indigenous folk and festival music. And as for The Lydian Signers, they too are no strangers to the T&T Music Festival stage. Formed in 1979 by Bishop Anstey High School Choir Mistress Joyce Spence, the Lydian Singers won over 30 Festival trophies in the last 30 years.
The Lydian Singers performed operas such as Turandot, Orpheus and Eurydice and Scenes from Hiawatha, as well as both classic and modern sacred works, ranging from Verdi’s Requiem to Fr Jose Maria Vitier of Cuba’s Misa Cubana.
Of course, it was under the baton of artist, academic and cultural icon Dr Patricia “Pat” Bishop that the Lydians really blossomed, distinguishing themselves by performing various classical and contemporary works with a unique fusion of our national instrument, the steelpan, coupled with tassa and African drumming.
This award-winning choir will be supported by The Lydian Steel ensemble which recently celebrated 25 years and promises a repertoire to thrill all patrons at this benefit.