Two events which took place last month (August) as reported in the media are in my opinion should not be ignored by the National Government and stakeholders in education development and services in the country.
1. During USP SI Campus Open Day, the Acting Director Dr. Patricia announced that USP has secured its land title at KG VI to build the USP 4th Campus.
This means that the prestigious regional university, of which Solomon Islands is a member of is here to stay in the country. This is a milestone in the provision of university level education for our citizen. One can only admire and envy how successful USP has come after 47 years of growth. The recent graduation at Laucala Campus of 996 grandaunts, including 20 grandaunts from non member countries outside the region is a declaration of USP as a recognized university in the world.
2. On August 16th, the Vice Chancellor of Solomon Islands National University (SINU) and his delegation held talks with the Vice Chancellor of USP at Laucala Campos, Suva, Fiji.
The meeting discussed, quote “how SINU could develop a broader revenue base..” This implies that SINU administration is now facing the reality and daunting task in financing, and developing an expected reputable university in the country by its citizens.
The road ahead of SINU will not be easy because in my belief, our local university is established more on political will to have a university of our own thus changing one name and existing institution (Solomon Islands College of Higher Education – SICHE) into SINU through an Act of Parliament.
We are already on the road now to provide recognized university level education in the country. We must be weary of get trapped with pride, pretentions and political ambitions.
We must also avoid building a university on imitation. Instead to provide the best university institution in the country should be the goal of the Ministry of Education and SINU.
When SINU was finally established from SICHE, I suggested through the media of the idea that Solomon Islands should seek partnership with Cambridge University of England (a pre-independence provider of education syllabus for Solomon Islands) through the British High Commission, Honiara to develop SINU to develop our university.
However, that idea has gone with the wind.
With USP now ready to establish its 4th Campus in the country I again would like to suggest that the National Government to review the co-existence of USP and SINU and forge a new partnership arrangement whereby USP 4th Campus is the country’s national academic university and Solomon Islands National University (SINU) be changed and to become the National University of Technology for the country.
This is “killing two birds with one stone” as the expression goes.
Firstly, for a small nation of Solomon Islands to have two similar higher academic learning institutions it would be duplicating, a financial burden and divisive matter amongst our decision makers and students attending the two universities. (Having private universities would still be welcomed.)
Secondly, the two similar universities will not adequately address the much needed technical and engineering experts this country is very much in need of today.
We need well qualified graduates in the areas of Agriculture, Forestry, Marine, Fisheries, Civil Engineering, Aviations, Communications, Tradesman ship, Medical Science, etc.
Turn SINU to become the provider of higher level education in technical skills.
Thirdly, the two types of universities would allow for our education system to meet the interest of our students and citizens to pursue their educational interest either mainly for academic professions or for technical professions.
In this scenario those going through the vocational/ rural training centers and technical institutes and those continuing their secondary education from Form 3, will all have equal opportunities to reach the appropriate university studies of their career choice in the country.
As alluded to earlier, the USP 4th Campus to become the future national university of Solomon Islands. Together with USP Council, Solomon Islands Government to become a partner or joint-venture in this educational undertaking. A revised arrangement be made with USP to handover the 4th Campus at a certain time in future.
SINU to be redirected and function as the new University of Technology for the country. We seek assistance from Australia or Britain to turn current SINU Kukum Campus (former Honiara Technical Institute) to be the technology university’s main campus, plus Marine Institute (Ranadi), former National Agriculture Insttitute (Fote – Malaita Province) and Forestry School (Poitete – Western Province) as the starting off campuses.
SINU’s Panatina Campus (former Solomon Islands Teachers College) to become the USP 4th Campus School in Education and Humanities.
Lastly, the close vicinity of USP 4th Campus at KG VI School area is very appropriate to turn and upgrade KGVI NSS to become the state institute to prepare students entering university education – either to USP/SI or SI University of Technology (SIUT) The establishment of Form 6 levels in all Provincial and Community High Schools to cease. Those passing F5 to go to KGVI State school preparing to enter on to university. Those from technical schools at a certain level could go direct to SI UT.
In a nutshell
Opinions raised in this article is not new but to reign in ambitions and take a step back and look at what is available now from the past and present and use it efficiently and economically to develop our education system to serve the education need of our citizen and providing the manpower for the country.
Solomon Islands has the second largest enrolment at USP, after Fiji. The establishment of USP/SI Campus is an honour and let us not compete with it but accommodate it to advance our educational developments and the future of Solomon Islands.
It is not too late to make a review because, USP 4th Campus is yet to start embedding itself in the country and competing with our own university. And SINU is still in the infant stage, finding its way around the jigsaw to become “the” University for Solomon Islands.
“Kill two birds with one stone” is the message here!
By Clement Kengava
A former SICHE Chairman
Taro, Choiseul Province