Tuesday, 12 April 2011 1:07 AM

NTU neglects Solomon Islands' students in PNG!!

Dear editor, please allow me a space on your paper.

I am writing on behalf of my colleagues and me, in support of my fellow Solomon Islands' students in PNG currently doing our residency training.

The Solomon Islands has many students studying overseas, in Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and also as far as Cuba in the Caribbean. These students comprise the future workforce of Solomon Islands covering areas of health, education, natural resource management and development, law, tourism and hospitality, business, finance and economics, engineering, information technology, and many other developmental areas in dire need of manpower in the Solomon Islands. In essence, these students are studying in a variety of courses covering the basic arts and sciences that would help Solomon Islands grow, develop, and rise to new heights as an independent, self-reliant and sovereign state.

In Papua New Guinea, namely at the University of Papua New Guinea, there are two campuses that Solomon Islands' students are currently studying at. There is the Waigani Campus that caters for the majority of schools and courses that UPNG offers, and there is the Taurama Campus which is a single school on its own, the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Of these two campuses, the one thing that really differentiates the running course of programs of study conducted are; the period of residency training that accompanies the program. In the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, all programs consist of residency training in different hospitals around PNG. This means that students are still under training, but that that training period is now conducted at hospitals around the country, and this happens at the end of the course of study at UPNG, School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The residency period is usually one to two years in duration. So although we are yet students, we are not staying on campus, not eating at the school mess hall, and basically do not have privileges that the normal students still studying on campus enjoy.

As are most of the Solomon Islands students studying in Papua New Guinea, we were sponsored by the Solomon Islands Government under the SIG scholarship to study at UPNG School of Medicine and Health Sciences. During our study we received our allowances as one under a scholarship funding would expect. However, during the residency training, although this period is still considered part of educational program, allowances are not given. This is the case year after year. However, during a visit to the school by the NTU officer in charge of students studying in Papua New Guinea last year (2010), in response to an appeal that residency students still receive their allowances, the officer, then Mr. Morris Toiraena, confirmed to the Solomon Islands' student body that payment of allowances during the residency training period was already approved and fully implemented. This was supported by the fact that a number of resident students did receive their allowances at the same time that the normal student body received theirs. Also to support this was the fact that before coming to PNG this year to start our residency, we were assured the 'allowance for residency issue' was sorted and that our allowances would be paid as it was last year. This assurance came from the director of NTU himself, Mr. Selu Maezama.

How gravely mislead we were to find out only after arriving in PNG that our allowances would not be paid. Tireless efforts were made to appeal this issue to the NTU, but all this was in vain.

Today, the 11th of April, 2011, we found out that the final decision on the issue was made, and that sadly was not in our favour. It is true that we will get paid during our residency, but the thing is, this pay does not come for the first four to six months of the residency period! How on earth does the NTU staff expect us to survive in a foreign country without money for four to six months?! It is because of this delay in salary during the first four to six months that this issue was raised in the first place, to at least assist the residents during the first semester while waiting for their salary to come in. I do not know what factors lead the NTU staff to conclude this issue the way they did. Do they understand that we do not live on campus anymore?

Do they understand the expenses that go along with that? We travel to work everyday, we pay for our own food everyday, everyday! And the NTU staff expects us to survive without money for four to six months? Come on people, theres got to be some common sense, you cannot, cannot survive without money. We are foreigners, we do not have relatives living here that we can rely on for food and travel expenses. It's not like living in Honiara where there are many wantoks we can rely on for assistance in such circumstances, this is PNG, a different country! Where will we get money from? Our parents cannot afford to send money every week to help us survive. The currency difference makes it very hard for our wantoks in Honiara to send us money, and furthermore, to send money every week or two weeks is just impossible! The small money that our kind-hearted, sympathetic wantoks in Honiara send us is not enough for our daily expenses, even at reasonable spending, so much so that we sacrifice two meals a day, two meals a day! Our only meal a day is dinner. That is all we can afford to have with the little money our wantoks send us. We are being deprived of food, and because of this, we do not have enough strength to work, we do not concentrate well at work, our immune system drops and we become sick easily. This is a violation of human rights!! Human rights!!

Some of us borrow money from friends to survive. This is an option, but one can only borrow money so many times, and not unlimited. Our one and only hope was the settling allowance that the NTU assured us was already approved and would be paid to us. This, as we found out today, after three and a half months working without pay, was not going to happen. The NTU staff and executives met and concluded that since we would be getting a back-date of salary, then we should not get our settling allowances since that would mean that we would be getting a 'double pay' once our salary came in. Double pay?! As if we would be getting our salary from NTU for them to say that to give us settling allowances would mean that we were getting a 'double pay'!! Please people, there has got to be some common sense for the NTU office to run smoothly. Where has all that common sense gone?! Put yourselves in our shoes and see how you do. I do not, do not think that anyone can survive in a foreign country without any money! And that took the slightest ounce of common sense to come to that conclusion. Even a kindergarten student would conclude that!

The biggest effect that this has had on me I would say is a psychological one. How can my country, my government, my people send me to a different country and expect me to survive without any support? I speak for every one of us resident students when I say this, that we feel neglected by our government, we feel betrayed, we feel abandoned! That is a very sad feeling, a very sad feeling that one cannot fully understand till they actually experience it. We are citizens of Solomon Islands, and I cannot understand why our government would do this to us while we are in a foreign place. I hope the NTU staff and executives take this matter seriously and understand our plight. If not, they are just mechanical robots that appear human, but do not act like human.

In finishing I'd like to quote our National Motto as stated on our National Coat of Arms; "To Lead is to Serve". Please do not forget that you are sitting high up there in office to serve your fellow countrymen, your citizens, your students. The National Training Unit, does this motto also apply to you? I believe so.

Solomon Islands' Resident Student.

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

Other Letters to the Editor All Letters
By GEOFFREY MAURIASI USP, Lacuala Campus, Fiji
By CHARLES KOULI Gizo, Western Province
By JAQUE FRIEDMAN New Zealand