VT800 million fund not enough: Education Minister

VANUATU Minister of Education and Training, Jean Pierre Nirua, said the VT800 million (US$6.9 million) scholarship fund allocated by the government to sponsor more than 400 eligible students every year is inadequate.

The cancellation of Government scholarships offered to over 50 university students who were shortlisted is linked to the budget.

While the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) encouraged college and university graduates to pursue their studies, it did not have enough money to meet the needs of everyone, said Minister Nirua.

He said the scholarships were awarded according to the availability of public funds but they are trying hard to find other alternatives to source additional funding for scholarships.

Students can also benefit from the other donor country’s scholarship programs, he added.

It is understood that the decision taken by the government to localise scholarship aims to reduce costs.

Apart from the cancellation of the new scholarship offers, the students in Fiji are still without allowances.

The majority of them arrived at the foreign campuses last month. One of the concerned students stressed that they really need their allowances to buy food, meet rent fees and stationery as lectures at some of the universities have already started.

The Director General (DG) of the MOET, Bergmans Iati, blames the delay of the allowances on the slow process of releasing the funds.

He assured the students they will sort out the issue and that his office will be looking at introducing new mechanisms to address the common problem of delays in scholarship allowance release.

It is believed that the MOET is struggling with a shrinking scholarship fund with debts from previous years.

This applies to Year 13 and Year 14 graduates, including the new university graduates.

Frustrated university students said that instead of offering laptops to the new students, the MOET should use the money to sponsor some of their courses as a cost cutting exercise.

Minister Nirua said that the Scholarship Office will process the refund for the laptop funds through each student’s allowances.

The money that was used to purchase the laptops were sourced from the scholarship fund. The total cost of the laptops is approximately VT4.7million (US$411,000).