PNG to reduce tertiary assistance to SI
By ANDREW FANASIA
PAPUA New Guinea (PNG) Government will reduce its scholarship assistance to Solomon Islands students under a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which is yet to be framed.
PNG Commissioner to Solomon Islands Dr John Balavu told the Solomon Star in an exclusive interview in Honiara.
Following his announcement of the different MoUs between PNG and Solomon Islands Government when they celebrated their 45th Independence anniversary last week this paper sought further clarifications.
Its understood the first MOU signed in May 2014 covered a period of four year between 2014 to 2018.
Under the deal about 200 local students have been selected annually to undergo undergraduate program studies in PNG universities.
This is about 800 scholarships over the four years period.
Dr Balavu said the changes was announced by PNG Prime Minister James Marape during his state visit to Solomon Islands.
“Initially it was 800 scholarships for Solomon Islands students but he made a change to that commitment to 50 scholarships.
“And that has to be framed into this new MoU we are proposing with Solomon Islands Education Department,” he added.
He further stressed that what that entail will be spell out in this new MoU.
He explained that PNG also have their national scholarship offered to their nationals and then they also have bilateral scholarships offered to Solomon Islands students under this arrangement.
Under that arrangement the PNG government met the tuition and all other expenses for the selected local students studying in any PNG institutions.
“Now there’s a bit of challenge in this area with regards to institutions who are participating in this program don’t actually have a budget for that so you know the budget has to come from somewhere.
“And then when it comes to monitoring the placement of these people and their progress to achieve good academic results it has caused the need to put in place some kind of mechanism to effectively monitor the progress of these students and how they end up after the scholarship award is completed,” he explained yesterday.
Meanwhile, it was understood that this tertiary education assistance was signed between the foreign ministers of both countries in May 2014.
The Foreign Affairs Minister for Solomon Islands back then was Clay Forau.
This was during PNG’s foreign minister’s visit to Solomon Islands to handover the relieve assistance funds.
Dr Balavu said that the purpose of the MoU is to embrace cooperation on human resource management through the provision of scholarships to Solomon Islands students to study in PNG tertiary institutions.
“Now 800 scholarships were offered initially for Solomon Islands students and these scholarships were for a four year period from year 2014-2018.
“That was the life span of the agreement,” he added.
The MoU has expired in 2018 but there are students who have not yet completed their scholarship. So the understanding was to allow these students to complete their scholarship under the MoU.
“I believe this was an understanding from our government for them to complete their studies,” he added.
Dr Balavu however wishes that the COVID-19 get out of the way so that both PNG and Solomon Islands government can continue to develop the new MoU.