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Students break their silence

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AFTER years of speculations, a group of disgruntled students with aggregates of GPA 3 and above met with local pressure group FSII (Forum Solomon Islands International) and broke their silence.

Group spokesman George Satriani said:  “The purported scholarship scandal is real and we are the latest victims.

“We call on the Government through the NTU to consider our plight. We want the rightful authorities to act quickly.

“We have been given admission letters from Laucala Campus and are only seeking approval for scholarships.”

FSII CEO Benjamin Afuga confirmed having met with a group of disgruntled students yesterday.

“These students are amongst the top students the country has produced this year and should be given places to continue their studies,” Mr Afuga said.

“Why is the Government giving away their places to other students whose aggregate speaks volume of their incompetence?” Mr Afuga questioned.

He said these students are amongst the 120 students given admission by USP’s Laucala campus to study this year.

However for unknown reasons, these students’ names instead appeared under the PNG scholarship list, something the students earnestly questioned.

“Why are we placed in the PNG list when we don’t have an admission letter from any PNG institutions?

“I don’t even apply to any PNG institution to study. This is ridiculous and I’m very surprised,” one student said.

Out of this 120 students listed under PNG scholarship, 20 have already left for PNG to study at the Divine Word University, whilst the rest are struggling to hear any positive response from the NTU.

The students revealed that they have personally witnessed a lot of discrepancies happening in the Ministry of Education

“We have been reliably informed by other MEHRD employees that there are insiders (MEHRD staff) with different lists,” said another student.

The student added: “We have facts of the different lists and we know which students come under which list”.

Mr Afuga said his group understands that the list these students referred to are from the NTU, the Minister of Education, PMO and the PM himself.

“Which policy are these people adhering to?” Mr Afuga asked.

Another student who wants to remain anonymous said: “We are being treated like master lius or nobody by the NTU staff.

“There seemed to be no help, we were just ignored.

“All we were being told to do is to be patient, but how can you be patient when you were not given right answers to our queries.

“The NTU director even lied to us that he will fly with the PM to PNG to sort out our study arrangements, but today (yesterday) he is still seen in the office. I saw him this morning”.

Mr Afuga said this is normal in that Ministry.

“The Ministry of Education is under the radar of FSII and has come under a lot of criticisms in recent times over corrupted practices.

“We have earlier raised complaints about National Exam leakages and cheating, and submitted a comprehensive report about these incidents with very strong evidences yet nothing concrete happened.

“We are still waiting patiently to hear the outcome of our recommendations”.

On this issue, Mr Afuga said: “Last year I have raised an alarm alerting everyone about what I termed as a Scholarship Scandal and that certain top officers in the Education Ministry, PMO and other top Government officials are part of this scandalous practice.

“Today nothing has changed, instead the matter got worse. Now students affected are coming forward to report the unfair treatment and scandalous placements in overseas institutions that has been going on for decades.”

The disgruntled students’ spokesman Satriani complained: “Today (yesterday) I have personally saw a girl’s scholarship approval letter. It was authorized by none other than the Minister of Education, Hon Dick Ha’amori.

“Another girl by the name of Elma was also given an precooked approval by Hon Ha’amori.

“So within a short span of time this week, we have lots of approvals done by the Minister of Education,” Mr Satriani said.

FSII CEO Mr Afuga said this is 100% bizarre.

“These students reported during the meeting that many parents frequent the Education ministry at night times in pursuit of securing scholarships for their children.

“One girl joked to her friends, “Go to the NTU office at night with your parents and you will be offered a scholarship”.

These students also reported that many Government ministers called in at night at the MEHRD to get approvals for scholarships.

One other student said: “I am surprised that my space has been given to another student whose GPA is lower than mine and has no admission”.

There were evidences that many of those given spaces under this scandalous approach have GPA’s low as 1.8.

The group of students also confirmed that many students who have been axed by NTU for poor performances have been reinstated after appealing their cases. Again these are done under scandalous practices”.

It is understood that many PNG institutions have already started and this leaves these disgruntled students with many unanswered questions.

“The action of the NTU director and his staff are not welcoming or helpful and undermines the objectives of human resource development of this country,” Mr Afuga said.

He said FSII is worried about the increased trend of scholarship scandal and calls on the Government to stop it now.

“This is clearly the reason why we have a high rate of failure and if we continue to entertain this scholarship scandal this country’s human resource baseline will be crippled in the long term.

“As a responsible Government under the leadership of PM Gordon Darcy Lilo, the most responsible thing to do is to establish a Commission of Inquiry and enquire into these allegations.

“Those found to be networking in this scandalous practice must face the full force of the law.

“What the Government does not realise is that as a direct result of this scandal, our students learning under uncooperative situations.”

Mr Afuga urges Prime Minister Lilo to come up with tangible measures to tackle and uproot this scholarship scandal.

He also called on Education minister Mr Ha’amori and all politicians to desist from indulging themselves in this unethical and scandalous practice.

“Solomon Islands as a developing nation depends on its human resource development, therefore as leaders you must guide policies that administer the country’s human resource training.

“You should refrain from taking advantage of your positions to include your own children, relatives, supporters or constituents under the guise of political privilege.”