Georgetown, Guyana – (March 28, 2017) Even as Government of Guyana continues to work towards an efficient and professional public service through, in part, the digitisation of public records and the increased use of Information Communication Technology (ICT), the Department of Public Service, which falls under the purview of the Ministry of the Presidency, is working to develop an online application process for National Scholarships by 2018. This is running parallel to the Department’s efforts of improve the process and ensure public accountability and transparency.
Head of the Public Service and Permanent Secretary of the Department of Public Service, Mr. Reginald Brotherson, in an interview with the Press and Publicity Unit of the Ministry of the Presidency, earlier today, said that the Department is hoping to modernise its application system as soon as possible. “The Government has a national programme through the [e-Government Agency/National Data Management Authority (NDMA)] and they are working hard but we will be moving into that stage where we will have the appropriate technology well utilised in the Department of Public Service… So within a year or so, we should be able to move right into that direction,” he said.
More than modernising the application process however, the Department has been working to ensure that a transparent process is created and managed to afford Guyanese citizens scholarship opportunities. “Since I have been here, we have been facilitating scholarships to the University of Guyana and the Guyana School of Agriculture for freshmen and students, who are already in the system as well as abroad,” he said.
While during the previous administration, applicants were often handpicked and shortlisted by the Ministry of Public Service, Mr. Brotherson said that the Department now has a National Panel, the first in this regard, which consists of professionals from the Education Ministry, private and other sectors who have been tasked with shortlisting and interviewing applicants. The panel, which is renewed every year, is made up of veteran educators; Mrs. Ingrid Fung and Ms. Donna Chapman, Private Sector Commission (PSC) Representative, Ms. Elizabeth Alleyne, Ms. Claudette Austin from the University of Guyana (UG) and Executive Director of the Public Service Staff College, Mr. Randolph Leitch. From July 2015 to date, more than 500 applications have been processed.
Applicants must be 35 years or under and in good health to qualify, must gain admission to the University they wish to attend and must have a valid Guyana passport. Applicants who are already students must have a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.7 or above while foreign students must have a 3.0 GPA or 75 percent. All applications are reviewed by this panel and applicants are shortlisted and invited for interviews.
During the interview process, applicants are graded on five main areas which are qualifications (10 points), relevance of scholarship (10 points), adaptability (4 points) and ability to cope in a different environment (for foreign students), experience in the field (for Post Graduates), maturity (for Under Graduates) (4 points), acceptance of scholarship conditions (2 points) and knowledge of the field of studies. Once the points have been tallied from the interviews, the recommendations are then sent to the Permanent Secretary and the Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, who has responsibility for the Public Service sector.
As the country pursues a ‘green agenda’ and with the potential for a booming oil and gas industry, Mr. Brotherson said that the Government will also give special consideration to applications, which are made for studies in the environmental sciences, oil and gas development or any other related fields.
The Department is currently supporting 186 students studying abroad and another 705 who are pursuing studies locally. For the year 2016, over 350 students were supported at tertiary institutions across the country as the Government sought to increase the number of scholarships available to young people. At present, students here and abroad are receiving support to pursue their Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) Degrees.
“This year almost a record number of scholarships are being offered because of the floodgate that was opened, both at the University of Guyana which has 83 percent of the scholarships offered locally, and the rest to the Guyana School of Agriculture. The government is not in a reactive mode, the government is in a planning mode, and we recognised that it is necessary that we must have investment in education,” Mr. Brotherson said.
The local scholarship packages cover all costs including local field trips, tuition, facilities’ fees and final year projects including the completion of the research paper. Beneficiaries are also afforded a travel allowance and a book allowance among others. Local scholarships at the University of Guyana are available in fields such as Forestry, Agriculture, Dentistry, Medicine, Environmental Health, Optometry, Pharmacy, Biology, Computer Science, Mathematics and Environmental Studies.
While overseas-based awardees have their tuitions and airfares paid for by the host country in most cases, the Government of Guyana also provides some allowances. Additionally, in the event that the mother or father of any of the students dies, then the Government of Guyana handles the financial expense of getting the student back to Guyana. In the case of a medical emergency, the student will be monitored by health officials in the host country. However, if the school recommends a semester break or time off given the nature of the medical emergency, the Government will also stand the expenses of having the student transferred back to Guyana until the recommended break ends. In case of any emergency, the parent is to make immediate contact with the Permanent Secretary, who will then intervene.
The Department also offers public servants, who are desirous of furthering their studies as well, the time necessary to do so. However, Mr. Brotherson said that this is done with strict adherence to the Public Service rules.
All applicants, upon completing the education programmes, will be provided with jobs, a binding agreement offered by the government, encouraging them to serve their country for a period of three to five years. However, if the applicant wishes to end the contract which has been signed with the Government of Guyana, Mr. Brotherson explained that the cost of the training along with a 12 percent interest would have to be repaid.
One of the challenges in the awarding or successful processing of scholarships, Mr. Brotherson said, is the lethargic approach by some of the applicants with regard to deadlines. Mr. Brotherson stressed that it is important that deadlines are met, particularly for overseas-based scholarships since there are many other processes, which has to complete before being approved. He is therefore calling on future applicants to honour deadlines as it will significantly help the process along.