In the wake of the proposed hefty increase of the Salaries and other entitlements of all current Members of Parliament Transparency Solomon Islands urges all Members of Parliament (Executive Government, Official Opposition, Independent Group) to spare a moment for the plight of 50 plus students who should graduate in 2021 but cannot do so due to non-payment of outstanding tuition fees to Educational Institutions of the Philippines. Informing the public, business houses, service providers and these students that there is no money whilst making proposals to benefit yourselves first is nothing more than corrupt conduct -conflict of interest. Parliamentary Entitlement Commission is nothing but a rubber stamp for Members of Parliaments bidding.
With regard to government sponsored students studying in various Educational Institutions of the Philippines, a number of them (50 plus) due to graduate in 2021 when the Covid-19 outbreak was declared (2020) a pandemic (deadly disease) throughout the world. Their educational journey came to an abrupt halt, and they were repatriated back to Solomon Islands without graduating nor with their qualification (certificates). Whist there are a number of issues with regard to Solomon Islands students sponsored by the government studying in Philippines educational institutions, the plight of those who have actually completed their course is one needing urgent attention. The Educational Institutions of Philippines are still waiting for the government to settle the outstanding tuition fees for these students before releasing their certificates including their transcripts. This is nothing new for educational institutions and universities. Educational Institutions regardless of which country they are based, need funds to continue providing education.
The final dream of any student is to get their certificate/qualification at the end of their study. These documents are very important for these young Solomon Islanders for purposes of seeking employment and explorations of options open to make a living and get a life. One affected student said and TSI quotes “We have been waiting for so long. Now the Members of Parliament will be getting a huge pay rise and raise in their entitlements. What about us or do the Members of Parliament have more rights than anybody else in this country. It does not make any sense that these representatives who are elected to look after our needs and the needs of this country always prioritise themselves first”.
For these 50 plus students their final course was set for December 2020/ January 2021 and their graduation date set for the month of April 2021. They were repatriated back to Solomon Islands starting September 2020 and other flights following that first flight. They worked hard and completed their last units/course online full of excitement that they will finally be awarded their certificates. But their excitement did not last when in the name of Covid-19 pandemic the Executive Government of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare failed to pay the outstanding tuition fees of these graduating students for 2020. Without the payment of these outstanding tuition fees, the AMA Makati and AMA Quezon City University of the Philippines have refused to release the certificates of these graduating students and their transcripts. Now that the Members of Parliament are going to get a huge increase in their entitlements the students are calling on the Executive Government to settle these outstanding fees so that they can get their certificates. Obviously, the excuse that there is no money is a sham. What public funds are available are only for payment of Members of Parliament.
In their quest to ask the Solomon Islands Government to address the issue of the outstanding tuition fees due to Philippines Educational Institutions (AMA Makati and AMA Quezon City University of the Philippines) the representatives of these graduating students (students that completed their study and due for graduation 2021) met with the Scholarship Desk Officer of the National Scholarship Division of the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development (MEHRD). In these meetings the Scholarship Desk Officer asked for a number of documents which were provided to her. Since then (2021), nothing much has happened to address the plight of this group of students – Solomon Islands young people. Both the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development and the DCGA led Executive Government have done nothing to settle the outstanding fees for this group of students. Some have now gone to join the Seasonal Workers Scheme as they could not get any other jobs without their qualification documents, or to try find some funds to pay their outstanding fees. The question they ask is “what kind of an Executive Government is governing this country, that treats its sponsored students thus. What kind of government is this that does not listen or care about anyone but themselves”.
These group of graduating or due to graduate students clearly acknowledge that the issues surrounding Solomon Islands students attending educational institutions in the Philippines are many and complex. They recommend that the government continue to work on these but beg the Executive Government to deal with the outstanding tuition fees of the graduating students (2021) as a matter of priority.
Will the Executive Government and Members of Parliament be listening and taking action on their cries, or will they turn deaf ears to the cries of the very people they represent in the Round House. These young people’s cry most certainly fell on deaf ears since 2021. Now it seems we have some funds in the public purse but it is prioritised for the payment of Members of Parliament’s medical scheme, the CDF Scheme ($6.8million) and a raise in their entitlements and salaries etc. It is these kinds of responses or the lack of it that people and especially these concerned students (youths) find most frustrating and unacceptable. More importantly it is these attitudes of Members of Parliament and the Executive Government in particularly that threatens peace, social stability and security in Honiara and the country.
Transparency Solomon Islands call of the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development and the Prime Minister Hon. Manasseh Sogavare and the acting Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Maelanga to deal with the paying off outstanding tuition fees for graduating students – 2021. Getting their certificates, transcripts, and other educational documents to verify what study they have undertaken will help them get a life for themselves now.
As one such graduating student lamented “the assessment of individuals for purposes of amending awards, continuing education etc. has nothing to do with us the graduating ones, because our issue is for the SIG to clear our outstanding tuition fee arrears only, so that we can be issued with our degree, certificate, transcripts for us to get on with our life. To use NSC’s policy of assessing individuals, just creates a not good enough excuse delaying us from acquiring of our credentials. These delaying tactics are unacceptable”, he said. Without their qualification these youths do not stand a chance of being recruited into formal employment considering the criteria required by various ministries and elsewhere. It is sad and unacceptable to hear one of them say “Mi taeti fo raetem lo Application blo mi, soon to graduate na”, “oloketa lo ministry bata atin taeti fo lukim sem thing lo every application blo mi to”.
These repatriated students have been in the country and understand like everybody else that the country is going through an economic crisis caused by Covid-19, and social unrest that Honiara went through in November. But seeing the millions being proposed for the entitlements of the Members of Parliament they raise the question of “how long is this Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare led DCGA Executive Government going to ignore this unbearable longstanding issue of us the graduating students”.
Transparency Solomon Islands urges the government to pay attention to the plight of these students. They have given ample time for responsible authority to deal with their case and have been patience for more than a year now. Whilst it is commendable that some are exploring means by which to pay for their own arrears (seasonal workers), with their own pocket money, not all are able to do this. The bottom line is that this is the responsibility of the government and not individual students.
It is these sorts of attitude that threaten social stability, peace, and security of Honiara. With regard to peace and security it is most concerning that the Prime Minister said an Independent Commission of Enquiry is not needed for the most recent riot and looting whilst the finance Minister calls for the charging of the instigators of this riot. It requires no rocket science to work out that it is the DCGA government’s failure to listen, consult, accommodate, and simply being responsible, transparent, and accountable (the cries of the citizens of this country) that frustrates citizens just as it is now frustrating students repatriated from the Philippines being denied their certificates due to government’s refusal to clear the outstanding tuition fees due to Philippines Educational Institutions.
When will you ever learn government (representatives of the people), when you know very well that the ethnic tension erupted because of failure of successive government to address the issues raised by Guadalcanal people and the development needs of Solomon Islands as a country. If anyone is to be charged with instigating the most recent riot and looting it should be the DCGA Executive Government membership and the political party exercising government official power. A highly politicised police force’s will more than likely headhunt the opponents/rivals of the DCGA government.
Transparency Solomon Islands calls on, the DCGA led Executive Government of Prime Minister Hon. Manasseh Sogavare to direct the responsible authorities to deal with this matter urgently. Resolving this issue will have a big impact on the lives of these young people and shape their perception of being respectable, responsible, and accountable citizens of Solomon Islands. Whilst Transparency Solomon Islands is given to understand that no child of any current Member of Parliament is in this group. Time changes and ask yourself should you not be returned, and you become an ordinary citizen would you accept your child to be treated like these students? Transparency Solomon Islands urges the Executive Government of Solomon Islands to pay off the graduating students outstanding tuition fees owed to AMA Makati and AMA Quezon City University of the Philippines.
– Transparency Solomon Islands