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By Janelle Charles

September 11, 1998 - On Wednesday the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) handed out 23 new scholarships, which will cover books, uniforms, transportation and meal allowances, facility fees and CXC examinations over the period of 5 years. It has been a decade since the NIS has been providing scholarships to needy secondary school students, under its poverty alleviation programme.

The presentation ceremony was underscored with calls for students to focus more on pursuing studies in the area of science and mathematics.

The initial call came form the coordinator of the scholarship programme - Albert Cenac - who noted that students were taking what he described as the "line of least resistance" by pursing mostly subjects in social sciences and Management studies. "Now if every body does that, it means that we are going to flood the market and every body will be competing for the same job," Cenac said. He said that out of the 37 students who have graduated from the NIS scholarship program, only one individual opted for math, chemistry, physics and biology.

Similar sentiments were also expressed by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education Dr. Didacus Jules who noted that the Ministry of Education was having a difficult time resolving human development problems because students have traditionally being shying away from the natural sciences. Citing to a recent example, Dr. Jules said that St. Lucia was unable to find suitable applicants to take up 4 scholarships offered by the Caribbean Development Bank to pursue degree programmes in Science and Mathematics, because the targeted persons lacked the necessary pre-requisites. "In St. Lucia, one of our biggest problems in human resource development is that too many people want to do the same thing," said Jules.

Jules – "We have a kind of a follow fashion thing, - every body is doing law, sociology, or management. At the end of the day, in a small island state like ours we cannot accommodate five or six hundred lawyers otherwise lawyers will soon be selling their services on trays by the market. We cannot afford to entertain eight hundred or a thousand managers, because where are the businesses they are going to manage. We have to create opportunities where we are going to break out into new areas, we have to find niche areas."

Dr. Jules adds that the demand for Science, Mathematics and Technology, will increase into the 21st century and therefore students need to give greater consideration to pursuing the sciences.

To date the NIS has disbursed 141 scholarships totaling in excess of 700 thousand dollars.



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