THIRTY-SIX Jamaican students at the Cave Hill, Barbados campus of t he University of the West Indies have appealed to the Government to help get them home.
The university’s campus was locked down in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the closure of Jamaica’s airports to incoming passengers on March 21 made the situation worse, as all incoming flights were cancelled.
Thacher Loutin, president of the Guild of Students, said: “The Jamaican consulate here has pleaded to the Government of Jamaica to have us home [but] Caribbean Airlines is giving us a warm time. If we are to reach Jamaica from this end we must reach via Caribbean Airlines.” Loutin is among the 36 Jamaican students.
“I know the prime minister has powers, so I’m just pleading to him to have us come home to our families, to our children. I am a parent as well. Barbados is relatively small and we are actually on the same range, where COVID-19 is concerned, so I would rather be in Jamaica, which is bigger and safer than in Barbados, honestly,” Loutin continued.
“The Government of The Bahamas came last weekend for the Bahamian students; they sent a chartered aircraft for those students. I wish the Jamaican Government would do something like that. We will pay our fares; we just want to get home. Put something in place for us to travel home,” she pleaded.
She said students were caught off guard by Government’s decision to restrict incoming flights to the island.
“I was already packed because the Office of Student Services had been in discussions with us, even the Jamaican consulate here was in discussions with Caribbean Airlines. They told us to prepare for the 24th of March so students were actually prepared and then they came and said they didn’t think the flight would happen and there have been no updates since,” she told the Jamaica Observer.
In the meantime, she said there is much disquiet amongst families about the well-being of the students.
“A lot of parents in Jamaica have reached out to me; they wouldn’t mind if their children are beside them,” Loutin noted. She said students were not put off by the fact that upon arrival in the island they could be quarantined or asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.
“That’s fine because we don’t know when this pandemic will end; even being in our own country in quarantine is a good step,” she said.
Loutin, in the meantime, had high praises for the university’s administration and the Jamaica Barbados Association (JAMBAR).
“This association has stepped in and helped us. We got some top-ups [cellular phone credit]and they have already provided us with some painkillers, sanitary napkins, and antibacterial soaps. We also have food items to drop off for some of the students on campus, but the main struggle right now is that we would love to get home,” Loutin said.
“So far the university’s decisions are really excellent and it shows they continue to make students a priority. I can speak for Cave Hill; we have a caring principal.”
She added: “We have a lot of students who are in financial difficulties and what the campus did was take all those students off financial hold so they can access e-learning. Also, normally there is a fine for overdue books at the library and today they said no fines [as] they just want the students to take in the books. There are little things the school is doing and we really appreciate it, but our main concern is getting home,” Loutin repeated.
“Right now Barbados is closed, except for supermarkets, hospitals, pharmacies; I went on the road earlier and it’s a ghost town,” she said further. Barbados has 34 confirmed cases, while Jamaica up to yesterday had 36 confirmed cases of the virus.
Yesterday, one Jamaican student who resides off campus in Barbados told the Observer that she has not benefited from the care packages received by other students out of personal safety concerns.
“I don’t really feel comfortable going out. So even though groceries are offered I don’t think I want to travel to school to get any or put anyone at risk to bring anything to me. The whole country is currently under curfew since the amount of COVID-19 cases in a short period of time has come to rival Jamaica’s. That is, I believe, because [the Government here] allowed nationals to return [because of their constitutional rights] and ships to come in amidst the pandemic around the world… due to tourism being important to the country,” she told the Observer.
“I think everyone is taking things one day at a time. I do commend Jamaica for their efforts though they may negatively impact me. I wish they allowed one last rescue flight,” the student said.
“Students such as myself really want to be seen and understood even in the midst of this situation,” she added.
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive