Barbados has recently joined the ranks of countries, who must adequately vet foreign institutions setting up campuses around the world.
Managing Director of the Washington University of Barbados Gopi Venkat Rao was arrested on charges of fraud recently, when the institution’s treatment of students and staff was called in to question. Rao had recruited students with the promise of gaining entrance to universities in China and USA.
Medical students and staff attending the ‘ for -profit’ Oldbury campus, situated at the Casa Grande Hotel in St. Phillip, lamented about their accommodations, with staff and students being left with inadequate air conditioning, food, water and other amenities since utility bills had gone unpaid for three months.
The onsite administrative and consulting staff was not paid for their work during their employment at the institution for the last 5 months and to compound matters, their work visas were never renewed.
Executive secretary, Tricia Newton, explained that the staff had yet to be paid and many felt ‘defrauded’ by the man they had trusted and left India to work for.
“It is a dire situation, I watch people at work every day crying [and] begging,” Newton revealed.
She also explained that the Indian staff was routinely replaced in an awful cycle when their work permits were expired, instead of being allowed to renew them.
“They did not pay the persons for months. People were just around here begging; [management] would get rid of those and bring in another set,” Newton said.
After news broke that Gopi Venkat Rao was arrested, on charges of fraud many of the students were left both confused and concerned, especially upon the realization that their hard work was for nothing and their dreams of a better future smashed.
One student, Sowjanya Racharla, 23, spoke to the Barbadian press and said she felt ‘broken’ and ‘betrayed’, especially since she was the ‘hope’ for her parents.
“I came against my dad; my dad said, ‘Baby you already have a degree why do you want to go back there?’ and I said, ‘Dad I want to become a doctor and this university is saying they can send me to the United States where I can get placed better than India’,” Racharla explained.
University education is valued by most people because it holds the promise of a better life, which is the reason many enroll into any tertiary level institution.
While most have access to their choice of accredited colleges and universities around the world, some are lured in by the misrepresented opportunities touted by many ‘for profit’ schools which usually gear their content towards students who may be single parents- usually women and are of limited means.
For-profit colleges and universities often create a grey area for students in Canada, the USA and most recently Barbados, which casts doubt over whether they were vetted for their accreditation in the same vein as traditional public, and private institutions and trade schools.
In the wake of this latest defrauding school scam, a consultant for the Washington University was questioned about the vetting procedures for the unaccredited institution, since staff was shown videos of a fully functioning school which supposedly met the local health and educational requirements.
Several of the students, who have lost money, simply wish to return to India however, some students may be given access to education at another facility.
The current Minister of Empowerment and Elder Affair in Barbados, Cynthia Forde and other officials from the Ministries of Health and Wellness, Labor and Education reassured staff and students that they would be given access to the resources that they require.