Arima Member of Parliament Anthony Garcia was a former Principal of the prestigious Fatima College in Woodbrook and a former President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA).
But as Minister of Education, Garcia seems out of sorts when it comes to administering education across the board.
His announcement last week that Government will no longer be providing GATE for students over 50 years old, has met some resistance. Only this week, Garcia told the media that Government’s decision to cut GATE from 50 year-olds and over was a good decision as the public has given its blessing to this decision.
As Express columnist Winford James wrote in the Thursday Express, Garcia must tell the population by what means he could say that the public has agreed with this decision.
Well, on Thursday, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) in a press release, said Government’s decision to blank citizens over the age of 50 from its Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (Gate) was an exercise in discrimination.
Garcia also announced that a means test system is to be introduced from next year to determine different percentages of tuition fees that students will be asked to pay, based on their financial backgrounds.
The minister has also defended the changes that have made GATE no longer free to all, saying the country needed to save money in times of economic hardship.
The ministry also announced on Wednesday that it structures are being set up to go after GATE drop-outs, as the government looks to recover money it has spent on tuition for persons who have not completed their courses.
The EOC noted that provisions had to be left in place for over-50s currently enrolled but said it was “disheartened” by the decision to cut off future students.
The Commission stated it was hopeful that this decision would be revisited and stated its willingness to assist with the development of “non-discriminatory” solutions.
While the Equal Opportunity Act does not cover discrimination due to age, the Commission, which recently delivered two landmark judgments in favor of citizens who had accused their respective employers of discrimination based on religion and race, reminded that it had the mandate of reviewing the Act.
Section 27(1) (c) of the Act, states that the Commission is mandated “to keep under review the working of the Act and any relevant law and, when required or otherwise thinks it necessary, to draw up and submit proposals for amending them.”
The EOC has submitted proposals to the Office of the Attorney General for the Act to be amended to include age, inter alia, as a status ground.
“The Commission trust that the relevant action will be taken to include age as a status ground for protection against discrimination,” the release stated.