Friday, 11 September 2009 2:18 PM

The USP saga continues!

Dear Editor,

I would be grateful if you could publish this article.

The discussions around the call for increase in student allowances for USP students in Fiji, has a lot of twists and turns and is not purely based on the Fijian 20% devaluation.

Through sympathetic with students; some facts need to be put in order.

Solomon Islands students' normally all lodge together in one house, perhaps a two, three or four bedroom house, you normal have six to eight members in one house, or even more on occasion. Please note that this applies to single students, married individuals are not covered under SIG scholarship, hence; individuals that bring family to Fiji, do so at their own expense. Also a good number of students lodge at the USP halls (dormitories) the cheapest of options; in terms of accommodation.

Students that rent as a group and off campus; normally can afford responsibly good accommodation, say at around $500 raging to $1000 Fijian dollars, once each individual contributes; affordability is quiet responsible. Note here that through devaluation has occurred in Fiji, property rate/rent or value has not increased, if anything; it has actually decreased; with a lesser demand for rental driving market values.

How Solomon Islands student lodge together on arrival in Fiji (Suva) is as follows; choose friends, normally previous high school buddies, in-country USP first year friends or Wantoks from same Island back home. Everyone normally is required to pay contribution on rental and a contribution for meals, that is the plan or idea anyway. However a lot of students fail to pay their contributions, or end up owing the funds back from an individual in the house who safe keeps the money. This is always a regular problem.

Through prices of goods has increased due to the lowing Fiji dollars on market value, the price control unit in Fiji is by far the most active and public centered agency across the Pacific. Whilst other Pacific Island Countries see price rise, in any given period in the dollar figures, Fiji increase still is increased on a cents based increase, with Government emphasis strong on a "give the public/consumers a fair go". Importantly most domestic goods are produced in Fiji and are responsibly cheap, unless you plan to have bacon and eggs, topped with baked beans and ham on a bed of cinnamon bread daily; then that's another story.

The major increase in goods in Fiji is; electronic equipment and a 140% taxation increase in beer and cigarettes and all imported wines and spirits. Not saying that Solomon Islands students are heavy drinkers and smokers but to put logic against claims of a rocketing increase in domestically produced products (food), Fiji is the Pacific hub for export of most edible goods. If people have travelled the Pacific, including Australia and New Zealand, Fiji is by far the cheapest place to live in Oceania.

I guess management of allowances is perhaps the issue that SISA and SIG should address.

Students also all want laptops, this is understandable, as assignments and lab space is normally a hassle. This is however not catered for under scholarship allocations, hence the numerous short falls in allowances affecting living standards. Note my earlier mentioned of increase in electronic equipment.

Solomon Islands students also get one of the larger allocations of allowances if you compare with other international students at USP, unless you are on an AusAID, NZaid, US Government or trust fund scholarship.

What Solomon Islands students fail to see is that scholarships are donor funded; if you are on SIG scholarship obviously you are ROC funded. How it works is like this; SIG submits a budget to ROC on the sum of scholarship award per individual student, ROC then releases funds against allowance allocation in bulk based on each student. Student believe that before devaluation so much SI dollars was given and then converted in Fijian dollars, hence if same SI dollar was sent, why are we getting less Fijian? there should be a increase given SI dollars has gained against the Fijian dollars. That is not how our Government bills ROC, this budget is usually working or operating in deficit, hence, ROC reimburses SIG, meaning it is impossible to demand more from a donor when working in deficit, at the grace or generosity of a donor. That is why ROC agrees to pay a set allocation in the Fijian dollar guided by agreement and policy.

I guess SIG should quickly introduce that all tertiary students go on student loans rather than provide fully funded scholarships. This way; a pool of funds for continuality of sending student is available, should donors pull out. It will also tie students to strong work ethics on end of term (graduation) and work towards paying off loan, given the repercussions.

I also agree with a writer to this column mentioning that SIG should seriously consider real numbers it can send overseas for tertiary education.

Please be considerate of what you have, considering our poor people back home are struggling without as much as you have, it takes sacrifice and struggle to achieve your goals.

SIG scholarships are almost to the tone of $40,000(SBD) per student; inclusive of allowances; bank fees; airfares, student registration and annual USP membership fees to SIG.

This is in no way intended to offend or to say; students shouldn't be vocal. May your voices continue to be heard if injustice is done!

Being vocal and rational do carry substance.

"Just for us to think outside the box"

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of Jonas Terokin Jr and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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