Tag Archives: Money

Transactions At The University Of The West Indies, Mona – A Postgraduate Student’s Point Of View

The Mphil/PhD programs at the University of the West Indies are research based programs which demand a lot of time and resources. Tuition is usually covered in exchange for work done at the associated departments. This work includes tutoring or demonstrating laboratory exercises. Candidates are usually offered a stipend paid in quarterly installments. On paper the grass seems very green and the program is expected to run smoothly but of course this seldom, if ever occurs.

UWI MONA MAIN GATE

Where it regards payments of stipend, in my experience, it is always late, even up to two months late. While this is inconvenient that is not my primary issue with the program and I am very grateful for the opportunity to research, publish and expose the University to the competitive international world of education.

Provided that the programs are research based, it is not possible to define specifically when one will be finished. Mphil students are given up to three years to complete the program after which they can upgrade to the PhD program or graduate with an Mphil degree. It is possible, if the resources are available, to complete long before the given period, but more often than  not, based on my observations, that is not the case. There are occasionally very successful students who are able to complete the program within the proposed time frame for example Peter Nelson, who graduated last year with a PhD in Chemistry at age twenty-five.
The research projects may be funded by independent sponsors, the program supervisor who may have enough resources, or the Office of Graduate Studies and Research. I completed the Mphil program long before the proposed time frame, partially because I had to fund aspects of the study myself. I upgraded to the PhD program and received a grant from the Office of Graduate Studies and Research. In order to access the funds, one has to make request by filling out a purchase requisition form, have it signed by the head of department and attaching proof of grant received (usually a letter which states the details of the grant) along with pro forma invoices for the items requested. This is then sent to the bursary there the ‘Purchases’ section generates a purchase order. A cheque is sent to the company selling the item, who will then ship it to the department. The process seems very simple and one would expect to receive the items needed in just a few days. Right?… Wrong! What seems to be a simple process, quite often takes months and even years (I know of an incident where a student waited two years to receive an item!). If the item needed is critical for research, you may end up wasting months of your life just waiting, and there is nothing you can do about it.
If you are in the program for too long then the University with send letters to you, kindly asking you to leave, it doesn’t matter that they may be the reason for the delays, you just need to get out!

My personal experience
If you think of all the worst cases, chances are, I have experienced it. But I will just share my most recent case. I noticed over the years that most companies are reluctant to do business with the University, I now know the reason. They also require prepayments even if a purchase order is generated. For my clinical research project I collect blood samples and do amazing sciency stuff with it. The samples need to be stored in a freezer until they are tested. After years of storing my samples on borrowed freezers it has become necessary to move the samples to my lab. I received a grant from the Office of Graduate Studies and Research which I used  to order a freezer from Courts Jamaica Ltd. I assumed this would be an easy transaction given that it is not an international order and the University has done business with Courts many times before. The first problem I encountered was Courts refusal to deliver the freezer. They claimed that UWI owes them money and until funds are transferred, no delivery will be made. I contacted purchases and they gave a date when the payments will be made, after that date I did a routine follow up and confirmation was given that payment had been made. I checked with courts who denied this claim. After a back and forth battle I was asked to request the order again and a cheque will be prepared! Obviously UWI – PURCHASES department lied to me. I did as was told, and still no delivery has been made. If the transaction is not complete within a week I will purchase the item myself and request a refund (it may take up to a year for me to be refunded). That was one of the things I had to do to complete the Mphil project on time.
This happens too often for it to be an error. If there are any concerns with an order no one will call you to correct it. You have to make it you duty to follow up and often times stand over persons to ensure they do their jobs!

Solution?

  • In order for the University to be a first class  institution, international publications are needed. It is important that they make available significant funds to assist with research so more quality publications can be made.
  • They should never lie to students! If the funds are not available, just say so.
  • Notify individuals of issues relating to a transaction.
  • Pay the business /companies for items delivered. They would be more inclined to do business with the University.
  • Expedite the process from requisition to acquisition.
    This can maximize the postgraduate student turnover rate, publications, and eventually more students can be accepted.

Commendable effort
The University is well aware of some of these issues and is working to fix them. The University has been doing mass expansion across faculties and halls of accommodation so that it can accept more students. More students = more money. The University now has a yearly forum for investors on research days (usually in February) where additional funding for research is received.
The area of research is getting better in Jamaica and though slowly, in time we will be parallel with the developed world.

– Aldeam Facey 2015

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Robot Taxis: What Would We Do Without Them?

Robots. No, I speak not of the technologically advanced machinery designed for leisure or pleasure. I speak not of the complex combination of metals controlled by a computer software. I speak of the men who risk their freedom, their lives, their everything to take the stranded home. Okay, so again I make have exaggerated just a bit. But we all know the ‘Robots’ – the illegal taxi (public passenger vehicle) operators, the men trying to ‘eat a food’ while playing hide and seek with the police officers.

Caught!
Caught!

Legal taxis have a red license plate, government vehicles have yellow plates, demonstration vehicles have blue plates, commercial vehicles have green plates and white for private passenger vehicles. Where there are white plated vehicles operating as taxis, we refer to them as robots and this is an illegal activity. Robot taxis are very common in Jamaica, I see them everywhere I go. While I do not support illegal activities, I have found that the activities of these robots have become quite necessary. The community where I lived most of my life has a ‘transport system’ run completely by robots. So much so, that if a red plated vehicle drives by in hopes of getting a few passengers, the passengers would be reluctant to enter that strange machine.
I also realized that in the corporate areas, at nights the legal taxi operators are not present in numbers significant enough facilitate the transport of passengers, the robots are usually present to rescue.
The big problem exists when they are caught by the police. Whenever police men are around, numerous persons are unable to travel.

Police
So why don’t the illegal operators get a ppv license plate?

The observer reported back in May, 2004 that taxi drivers were switching from red plates to white plates to avoid harassment by the police. It was reported that 70 persons made the switch. It appears the police are more vigilant of the red plated cars, which puts them in the spotlight.

Drivers may also be refusing to get a ppv license plate because of the difficulty associated with the application process. It is very time consuming and frustrating. Given that the transport system is not optimized, there are often not enough taxis to ensure the timely flow of passengers, couldn’t they speed up the process of the application? Those who actually are successful often times use unconventional methods. Thorough checks are quite necessary, car fitness is definitely an integral part of the process. But the entire system is corrupted. Did you know that you can purchase a certificate of fitness? A lot of work needs to be done to fix this messed up system.

The approach the government has taken to eradicate the robot operators makes no sense. Passengers can now be charged as much as 100,000 JMD for using the services of a robot taxi! Do you have any idea how much fish-back that could buy? Where there are no legal taxis available, what choice do you have?

I personally believe every passenger vehicle should be legal. For the safety of the passengers, and for accountability. However, the law enforcers should be a little more lenient in cases where no legal taxis are available. At least until the transport system is better regulated.

-Aldeam Facey 2015

How to Get a Driver’s License in Jamaica 

So, you’re a big man now? Old legs getting tired of walking? Public transportation not working out for you? Ladies rejecting you because you can’t drive? Well its time you go get yourself a driver’s license. To do this the RIGHT way may take a bit of cash and quite a bit of time. Yes, you may have a little link through which you can buy a license, but do you want to be driving, making simple errors due to lack of training and have other drivers condescendingly ask you if your license was bought? I think not. Now to get a license in Jamaica requires several steps, I’ll try to be as detailed as possible.

You will first need to get a learners permit/license to do this you will have to go to a nearby tax office and collect a form. The details must be entered on the form which should then be signed by a justice of the peace (JP) along with 2 passport sized pictures (also signed by JP). Take the signed form and photographs back to the tax office for processing. You will receive your learners permit immediately.

The next step will be learning to drive. You may have private lessons from a licensed driver who must be seated in the passenger seat adjacent to the driver’s seat at all times during the lesson. The other option is to use a driving school. For persons living in Kingston there is JAA driving school, Grennell’s driving school and Keys driving school among others. I chose to use Keys driving school simply because, while being very expensive was still more affordable than the other options I considered. My latest update had the cost of one lesson being $850 where one lesson lasts 30 minutes long. If you purchase ten or more lessons at once each lesson will cost $750. Basically it is cheaper to buy ten lessons than it is to buy nine.

Keys Driving School

Having paid for lessons and having made a schedule at the Keys driving school’s office located off Hagley park road just beside York plaza, you are ready for the road! Well not really, your first couple of lessons are at a private lot nearby (about 1km away off Molynes Rd) and a shuttle will be provided to transport you to and from the lot.

You have the option of selecting standard transmission or, for those who can’t manage, automatic transmission. Of course, being the macho beast they say I am I chose standard. I like the sporty feel of standard transmission, lower fuel consumption and if the battery dies you can simply push start. If you decide that you are going for the standard transmission your first instructor is very likely to be a miserable old man who will slap you on the leg for making a simple error such as stalling the vehicle (happens to every beginner). The man miserable u si! But him cool still.

After mastering the art of changing the gear, reversing and parallel parking you will be allowed to drive on the road. Driving on the road is very easy and after a total of 15-25 lessons (all depends on you), you are ready for your test. The first thing you will need to do is pay for the test, right now the cost is $2,700 but with the sliding dollar don’t be alarmed if it increases. You may then take the receipt to keys driving school where they will arrange with the Depot (at Swallowfield Rd) to schedule a day for your test. Beware Keys may delay scheduling the date so they may make some more money. The longer it takes to schedule a date the more likely it will be that you will purchase additional lessons, they will even call you to encourage more purchases.

You will also need a vehicle for the test. Keys provides this service as well at a cost of $4,000. Buying it on the corner seems attractive now doesn’t it? But don’t, you will need the lessons plus it is unethical. The test is separated into three parts, the written test, the yard test and the road test. There are two papers for standard transmission and one for automatic transmission students. For the written test there are two books that you will need which are also sold at the driving school. On finishing the test you will be asked to wait outside while they mark the papers. After passing the written section you will move on to the yard test which includes the hill start, reversing and finally parallel parking. You will be told whether you passed or not, in fact, you will know. Another waiting period will follow so it may be wise to clear your schedule for the day. The road test is usually done within the region of Mountain View. You have to be very careful as the examiner (seated at the back) may fail you for the simplest error.

If you passed all sections of your test you will be asked where you prefer to pick up your license. There is a collectorate office in Downtown and another in Constant Spring. In order to pick up your license, there is a $6,000 fee! You will take a photo for your license at the collectorate and the total process usually takes a one to two hours.

So there you have it, a few months and about $40,000 later you will have a driver’s license.

I’ve Been Shopping For Food All Wrong! Markets VS Supermarkets

I have been shopping at the supermarket for years. I like the convenience of having all the items I need in one place. Brooklyn supermarket is a prime example with foods ranging from freshly produced fruits and vegetables to the frozen remains of slaughtered animals. It is a great business idea to have everything in one place and ‘food stores’ such as Empire supermarket and MegaMart appear to be thriving through the implementation of this idea. Usually convenience comes at a cost, and in this case the cost is great! Shopping for a two week supply of food at any of these ‘one stop shops’ at times produce a bill of over 14,000 JMD and that is just for me (no I am not fat). I have come to realize that shopping at these superstores is like cutting a hole in my pocket before pouring in the money. Given the sliding dollar and the climbing cost of living, I had to find a way to ‘mek the dolla stretch’.

Women have generally been good at ‘stretching’ the dollar and I still don’t know how my granny fed so many with so little, only Jesus knows. Many suggestions from female friends have indicated that shopping at the Downtown market will save me loads in cash. The question was, would the possible savings at downtown compensate for the risk! But then again, what’s the worst that could happen in Downtown? I decided to give this market thing a try just to see what the savings are like. I shopped at the supermarket only for items I simply could not find at the market and completed my shopping at the Papine market.

Papine Market
Papine Market

The result was amazing, the savings were unbelievable! I picked up more items than I could carry and it cost so little in comparison to the supermarket. The produce were fresh and had never been on a refrigerator, there was much more to chose from, I could negotiate and the customer service was top notch! The first sellers I encountered at the papine market were a couple, really nice people the transaction was as follows:

Seller: “Hello mi can sell you sumting?”

l stopped and viewed their very presentable display then started to pick up random foods. I got a pound of yellow yam, a few sweet potatoes (which I used to make a mean potato pudding, I’ll share the recipe soon) onions, scallion, thyme, tomatoes, a sweet pepper and some ackee.

Me: “Ho much mi owe you?”

Some quick calculations revealed the total.

Seller: “$730″

I thought for a second she made an error but she turned out to be  sharper mathematician than I was. I gave her $700 and fumbled through my wallet for the remaining $30.

Seller:”Dat aright man”

So there I got a discount without asking for it.  Try getting such a deal at a supermarket. l went to another seller to get some fruits as the couple were the Ground provision and vegetables specialists. I stopped at another lady’s booth where I saw a freshly cut melon. I asked the price and expressed my interest in purchasing. To my surprise she told me it’s not so sweet and she doesn’t recommend it! Amazed! So I saved quite a bit of cash and I had fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s what I call a win win. They now have themselves a life long customer. You may think I am strange for not knowing this sooner but I’m sure there are others locked in the closet of convenience as I was, suffocating due to the smoke of their burning cash.

Beautiful Stall
Beautiful Stall

Please form a mutually beneficial relationship with our farmers, support them and save.  It’s time we stopped purchasing high priced imported foods which are easily accessible locally for much less.

– Aldeam Facey 2015