Former Pres student wins scholarship lawsuit

A former sixth form student of Presentation College in Chaguanas, who claimed to have missed out on a scholarship because of a change in the criteria for awarding national scholarships for CAPE, has won his lawsuit against the Education Ministry.

Justice Nadia Kangaloo, in an oral decision delivered on Monday at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain, held that the ministry’s decision to retroactively apply the new criteria “was unfair and in breach of natural justice.”

Nicholas Sant, who obtained seven ones in Environmental Science, Biology, Communication Studies and Caribbean Studies in Unit 1 and 2, and a grade two in Chemistry Unit 2, took the Education Ministry to court over the retroactive application of criteria set in 2018.

In his lawsuit, he said he chose the subjects to be eligible for a scholarship in two groupings: Environmental Science and Science.

Sant said his subject choices were based on the criteria that applied in 2016, when he entered sixth form, but by circular memorandum No 8 of 2018, new eligibility criteria were sent by the ministry.

He said he was not aware that the new criteria would apply to him since he selected his subjects in 2016.

Sant said when scholarship winners were announced in October 2018, he was not one of them.

He wrote to the ministry’s scholarship division and was told that he was considered under the natural sciences subject grouping because of the subjects he chose.

Sant was also told that he was not eligible for an Environmental Science scholarship because in that grouping, students must have completed Environmental Science with Geography, or Agricultural Science, any third subject and the two compulsory subjects of Caribbean and Communication Studies. Biology was removed from the criteria and he was no longer eligible in that grouping and because he got a grade two in Chemistry he did not meet the requirements to win a Natural Science scholarship.

He complained that the change in criteria came three months before the CAPE Unit 2 examination and because he was busy with preparing for it, he was not fully aware of the new criteria nor did he think it would apply to him.

In his lawsuit, Sant contended he had a legitimate expectation he would have been entitled to be considered for a scholarship in either of the two groupings.

In her ruling, Kangaloo that the ministry failed to take into account Sant applied since 2016, when he was about to enter his CAPE studies and would have chosen subjects he felt would have made him eligible for a national scholarship under the two groupings.

She also rejected the ministry’s position that the quota for scholarships was set by the Cabinet which limited the number of scholarships that year to 400.

Kangaloo quashed the ministry’s decision to retroactively implement the new policy for determining national scholarship eligibility for 2018 and granted a declaration that the decision to do so was “illegal, irrational, arbitrary, null, void, and of no legal effect.”

She also ordered the ministry to reconsider Sant’s CAPE results using the criteria that was in place in 2016.

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