Scholarship winner gets more time to accept

A HIGH COURT judge has granted an interim order to additional scholarship winner Aaliya Benjamin-Roach extending the time in which she has to accept the award.

Benjamin-Roach challenged the award, saying she was entitled to an open scholarship because she was wrongly assessed.

At a hearing at the Hall of Justice, Port of Spain, on Monday, Justice James Aboud gave Benjamin-Roach until June 1 to accept the scholarship.

She previously had until February 17 to accept.

Before extending the time, Aboud acknowledged that one of his daughters would have graduated with Benjamin-Roach, a former student of St Joseph's Convent, Port of Spain, in 2019.

“Am I interfering with the right of another student?” the judge enquired.

Benjamin-Roach’s attorney, Keith Scotland, said, “No, because it is not a first-past-the-post system.”

Aboud also said he would continue to hear the matter after he disclosed that his daughter received an open scholarship but refused it and instead offered to give it to a needy student.

Benjamin-Roach is seeking the court’s permission to file for a review of the Ministry of Education’s decision not to award her an open national scholarship.

She received an additional scholarship in natural sciences in November 2019. However, her attorneys are arguing that a circular memorandum No 1 of 2019, was wrongly applied to Benjamin-Roach, who received ten grade ones in CAPE unit I and II, and should have been awarded an open scholarship in general studies.

The application for judicial review claims that the 2019 criteria could not be applied to Benjamin-Roach, who registered to sit the CAPE exam in 2017.

The claim says when she registered, the benchmarks used to award an open scholarship in the general studies grouping were eight grade ones in any three subjects, in addition to the compulsory subjects of Caribbean Studies and communication studies.

It added that there was “no qualifier listed outlining any criteria as it regards the number of 'A' profiles required under the general studies grouping as it does in the natural sciences grouping.

Benjamin-Roach did pure mathematics, French, physics, chemistry, Caribbean studies and communication studies, and her application says she deliberately chose these subjects for an open scholarship in the general studies grouping.

Her lawyers intend to argue that she was deprived of her reasonable and legitimate expectation that her chosen subjects would result in her being awarded an open scholarship in general studies, on meeting the criteria.

She will also be asking the court to quash the ministry’s decision to retroactively implement the 2019 policy in her case, which changed the criteria for the award of national scholarships.

According to the application, an open scholarship differed from an additional scholarship, as it provided a broader range of opportunities, particularly for funding, for studies outside TT. Apart from the prestige attached, there is significant monetary benefit in terms of tuition funding and allowances for an ACTT-accredited or recognised university.

It added that open scholarships also had provisions for opportunities for funded University of the West Indies (UWI) exchange programmes and airfare expenses, while additional scholarships only provide for study at the UWI St Augustine campus or a local ACTT-accredited institution.

Studies can be undertaken at UWI Cave Hill or Mona campuses, but evidence must be provided to show that admission was not granted by UWI St Augustine.

Also representing Benjamin-Roach are Asha Watkins-Monteserrin, Keisha Kydd-Hanibal, Larry Williams and Jacqueline Chang.

The Education Ministry, although served with the application, did not have a legal representative in court.

The matter has been adjourned to March 9, when the issue of leave is likely to be dealt with.


"Scholarship winner gets more time to accept"

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