By ESTHER NURIA
The Ministry of Education & Human Resources Development (MEHRD) has revealed its plans for students studying overseas in the fight against the Coronavirus (COVID-19) global outbreak.
Permanent Secretary (PS) Dr. Franco Rodie told local Journalists in a Press Conference last Friday that his ministry is working on efforts to repatriate Solomon Islands students studying in various universities overseas.
Dr. Rodie said the ministry has already made contacts with the institutions that host the local students.
The recent request made by the students studying in the Philippines to return home has forced his Ministry to draft a Cabinet paper for tabling last week.
“However the cabinet recommended that we gather sufficient information from the institution in relation to the measures that the institutions have in place. For example, whether the institutions have formed a COVID-19 disaster management committee,” said Dr. Rodie.
“We have received some responses from the institutions assuring us that they are doing all that they can in terms of warning students, instructing students about the COVID-19 threats and what they should do in order to keep safe and protect themselves from contracting the virus,” he added.
Dr Rodie said that for the case of the students in the Philippines, the measure that the government has taken was quite drastic and so there is a current lockdown in Manila.
“For the case of our students in Fiji knowing that there was a case in Lautoka, we have contacted not only the University of the South Pacific but other institutions like the Fiji National University management team.
“They have assured us of the measures and instructions that they have given to the students and so if there are cases in terms of the spread of the disease then, of course, students will be provided with the services they need,” the Permanent Secretary said. Also, the Ministry had not only contacted the Universities in Fiji and the Philippines, but also some of the Institutions that some of our students had been studying in Australia and New Zealand.
The PS added that with the measures the universities had put in place, they have a contingency plan to evacuate students should there be a need to do that. But first, they need to seek formal approval from the cabinet before they can execute such plans.
“We have prepared our contingency plan should there be any evacuation so that our students can return,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Dr. Rodie said the cost of evacuating the students will have a huge cost implication but the government does care about the welfare of the students as well as their lives.
Therefore, they are constantly in contact with the High Commissioner offices in Suva, Port Moresby and other Universities in the region