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BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, April 22, 2020 (PLP PR Media Inc.) — The Team Unity Government is committing to assist Federation’s students who are studying abroad as they face difficulties brought about by the global COVID-19 pandemic by providing extra support, over and above the $120 million stimulus package that was announced by Prime Minister Dr the Hon Timothy Harris on March 24.

Chairing the latest edition of Leadership Matters, a virtual forum series, on ZIZ Television on Tuesday April 21, Prime Minister Harris commended Federation’s Diplomatic Staff in Washington DC, USA, and Havana, Cuba, for their efforts in assisting Federation’s students in their jurisdictions that are experiencing difficulties as a result of the pandemic.

“We have additional support which the government will provide to these students on the basis of need,” said Dr Harris. “They are required to make a case, that is to apply for assistance through the Chief Personnel Officer Ms Sheridane Warner and that officer is responsible for all training and support to our students abroad.” said Dr Harris.

The Chief Personnel Officer will work with the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Mr William Vincent Hodge, to do the necessary assessment and will offer grant support on the basis of need to those applicants.

Prime Minister Harris, who is also the Federal Minister of Finance, further announced that where St. Kitts and Nevis students abroad may need greater support in order to complete their studies, Government has spoken with the Directorate of the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis to provide soft loans, with moratorium on the payment of principal and interest.

“Our government response has been to, firstly leverage the support of our diplomatic missions to inquire of their wellbeing, their needs, and of course to respond appropriately,” observed the Prime Minister. “About some 85 students in the USA have been in contact with our Embassy in Washington DC and Ambassador Her Excellency Dr Thelma Phillip-Browne has been able to raise substantial support from our citizens abroad and our well-wishers to help those of our students in need.”

A number of students are studying in Cuba, and Prime Minister Harris reported that he talked with the St. Kitts and Nevis Ambassador resident in Havana, Her Excellency Verna Morris-Mills, on Sunday night April 19. She advised that she is in regular contact with the students in various locales in Cuba.

“She has been providing the necessary counselling and support as best as she can, and I want to commend her efforts,” said Dr Harris. “She has been able in some cases to provide students with masks, and she has been able in other cases to provide some students with food as Cuba at this time is undergoing a period of difficulty with respect to food supplies in part as a consequence of the blockage which has been going on for many years. Certainly the development of the pandemic has had its disruption with respect to food supplies there.”

With respect to St. Kitts and Nevis students in Jamaica, Prime Minister Harris noted that some of them have indicated an interest in returning home.

“Of course we are all aware of the difficulties with respect to travel, and most countries around the world are in a lockdown with respect to their ports of entry,” noted Dr Harris. “Nonetheless, our offices are in contact with the Government of Jamaica, and with airlines to see what would be possible.”

Other panellists on the Leadership Matters, a virtual forum series, on Tuesday April 21 were the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education the Hon Shawn Richards, and the Senior Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Education Dr Tricia Esdaille. 

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