Sixty-one Australian Government-sponsored students from The University of the South Pacific (USP) attended an end-of-semester dinner on 21 November, 2014 at Cafe Thirty in Suva.
The students were from Vanuatu (18), Kiribati (13), Tonga (12), Tuvalu (5), Samoa (5), Solomon Islands (2), Federated States of Micronesia (4), Republic of Marshall Islands (1) and Palau (1).
They were enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts programme (18), Bachelor of Commerce (6), Bachelor of Science (11), Bachelor of Education (2), Master of Business Administration (4), Master of Commerce (1), Master of Education (3) and, Post Graduate Diploma (6) programmes.
USP’s Director Development, Marketing and Communications Jaindra Karan said this year had been an interesting one with important dignitaries from the Australian Government meeting up with Australia Awards Pacific Scholarship (AAPS) students.
“In April this year, we had the Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Australian Government, Honourable Senator Brett Mason; in May, the Acting Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, His Excellency Glenn Miles addressed AAPS students; and in June the Australian Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia and the Northern Pacific, Dr Terry Beven visited you,” Mr Karan remarked.
“This shows how important you are to them, and how much they want you to succeed in your studies and return to your countries to help in its further development,” he said.
Mr Karan said it was pleasing to note that two students were identified as high academic achievers – Ativeniana Lavenita Shauna Pomana of Tonga who did a Bachelor of Arts (Population Studies and Demography/Official Statistics) and Tekaribwa Boota Aberaam of Kiribati who did a Master of Education programme.
He wished the students well and encouraged them to remember and acknowledge their parents, well-wishers, mentors, sponsors and USP.
“Come back for further studies and remain connected as USP alumni. Find ways and means to assist the University and play a part in USP’s 50th anniversary in 2018,” Mr Karan urged.
First Secretary Australian Aid, Mr James O’ Brien congratulated the students for their achievements and for a successful semester.
“We’re really proud that you all made it this far. These scholarships are an important part of the Australian aid programme. We invest more in skills development in the Pacific than any other area because for Pacific Island countries, you are the number one resource. There is no resource more renewable than people,” he said.
Commenting on Australia’s support for the programme, Mr O’Brien said helping students gain tertiary qualifications is what enables them to contribute to the rich tapestry of professional life in the Pacific.
“This sort of thing supports culture, confidence and linkages not just between Australia and the Pacific but between Pacific island countries themselves,” he said.
“There’s a pretty wide range of graduates – policing, law, economics, accounting, land planning, geography, environmental studies, science, banking, statistics, social work, IT, nutrition, language. You have a list of challenges facing the Pacific in terms of growing and connecting with the rest of the world – that’s the list and you all have just studied that,” he noted.
Mr O’Brien said the students’ success represented a successful return on the Australian Government’s investment.
He encouraged them to maintain the linkages and friendships with each other during their time at USP through USP’s alumni network as Pacific professionals and also with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
“A big thank you to you all and please convey our acknowledgment to your families for supporting you. I know it is tough being away from family,” he said.
Mr O’Brien also thanked his staff at DFAT and the Regional Scholarship Team (RST) at USP for managing the students during the semester.