Perceived bias in the award of Chevening scholarships

385

Dear Editor,
I was most disturbed when I read the recently published report on this year’s Chevening awardees and noted the racial imbalance in the chosen awardees. Of 14 recipients, only 3 were Indian Guyanese. Those awarded scholarships this year are Kayla DeFreitas, Sanasha Perreira, Jason Fraser, Tiffany Daniels, Darcy Waldron, Michael Fraser, Lidon Charles, Joel Joseph, Jacqueline Major, Dillon Clarke, Jonathan Melville, Rovin Sukhraj, Gopnauth Gossai and Tricia Teekah.
The percentage has dropped from 2015, when there were 4 Indian Guyanese Chevening scholars from a batch of 12. In 2016, there was only one known Indian Guyanese awardee, in the person of Charles Ramson (jnr). In 2015 the awardees were Tiffany Castello, Mark Greene, Alicia Primo, Quincy Jones, Vivianna Critchlow, Abbygale Jeffrey-Alvin, Denise Jourdain, Cleveland Sullivan, Amir Dillawar, Omattie Madray, Dinesh Persaud and Vishal Persaud.
The trend shows a downward trajectory for Indian Guyanese recipients, there could be even a lesser number of Indian Guyanese represented in the next batch, or there could be none at all; and the merit-based approach seems to have disappeared since 2015. There is no shortage of Indian Guyanese applicants who would have graduated from every faculty at the University of Guyana and whose grade point averages (GPA) and post-degree work experience would have made them just as qualified as any other ethnic group for these awards.
Since the selected awardees are skewed to favour the representation of one ethnic group over another, this raises legitimate concerns about unfairness, inequality, and racial bias in the selection of the awardees.
According to the Chevening rules, every applicant has a right to equal treatment with respect to his/her application, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status or disability. Scholarships are significant for reasons other than monetary value alone. Recipients of scholarships or awards have benefits in employment and access to post-graduate training. If any qualified Guyanese, no matter race, is unable even to fairly compete for the assistance that leads to these benefits, he or she is placed at a significant disadvantage.
The Chevening rules underline the very principles of fairness and just treatment which the British taxpayers expect of their Government. Any situation that exposes what seems to be discrimination and prejudice would not be tolerated as acceptable, and would be questioned and thoroughly investigated in the UK.
While the British Overseas Office peruses the applications and provides a shortlist of awardees, it is the responsibility of the local British High Commission to select the winners. Scholarships or awards that favour a specific ethnic group with a few token others added for what may seem to be political correctness infringe on basic human rights, unless that specific ethnic group qualifies as a “special program” that is designed to achieve equality of opportunity, which is clearly not the case in Guyana.
I hope that, by highlighting what appears to be a clear prejudicial treatment that goes against the rules and the very spirit of the Chevening scholarships, the current trend will be corrected, and that Guyanese of every race, creed and gender will be provided just and equal treatment in the future, as per the Chevening rules.

Sincerely,
R. Majeed

Back ground info as extracted from another section of the media
* 2017 Chevening scholarship Awardees.
Fourteen (14) Guyanese were awarded UK Chevening scholarships for Master’s degrees in various areas.
They are:
1) Kayla DeFreitas – MSc in Anthropology, Environment and Development;
2) Sanasha Perreira – MSc in Renewable Energy Development;
3 Jason Fraser – MSc in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship;
4) Tiffany Daniels – MSc in Systematic Reviews for Public Policy and Practice;
5) Darcy Waldron – MSc in Environmental Engineering and Project Management;
6) Michael Fraser – MSc in Communications and Signal Processing;
7) Lidon Charles – LLM in International Law;
8) Joel Joseph – MSc in Development Finance;
9) Jacqueline Major – MSc in Transport Planning and Engineering.
10) Dillon Clarke – MSc in Energy Studies with specialisation in Energy Economics;
11) Jonathan Melville – MSc in Agriculture and Environmental Science.

1) Rovin Sukhraj – MSc in Global Health, Law and Governance;
2) Gopnauth Gossai – MSc in Petroleum, Energy Economics and Finance;
3) Tricia Teekah – MA in Public Policy

2015 Chevening scholarship Awardees.
* In 2015 ,Twelve Guyanese have been awarded Chevening scholarships to pursue studies in the United Kingdom.
These were :
1) Tiffany Castello- LLM in International Human Rights Law at Brunel University;
2) Mark Greene- MSc in Civil Engineering at the University of Birmingham;
3) Alicia Primo- LLM in Law and Economics at University of Reading;
4) Dr. Quincy Jones- MSc in Health Policy, Planning and Financing at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
5) Vivianna Critchlow – MSc in Hydrogeology and Water Management at Newcastle University;
6) Mrs. Abbygale Jeffrey-Alvin- MSc in Cardiology at Canterbury Christ Church University;
7) Ms. Denise Jourdain- MA in Childhood and Youth Studies;
8) Mr. Cleveland Sullivan- MSc in Computing at the University of Dundee

1) Amir Dillawar- MSc in Electrical Engineering and Renewable Energy Systems at University of Leeds;
2) Omattie Madray- MSc. in Conflict, Displacement and Human Security at the University of East London;
3) Dinesh Persaud- MSc in Web Technology from the University of Southampton;
4) Vishal Persaud- MSc in Energy and the Environment at the University of Leeds.