It is very interesting to note the level of discussion and inputs from various wantoks on the above topic. This shows a healthy trend that promotes the stimulation of our minds, which is somehow good for our being called scholars and elites of our country.
Having spent about 8 consecutive years at USP Laucala (from undergraduate to postgraduate studies 2000-2007), in that period experiencing the two recent coups in Fiji and allowance problems, I would also like to highlight some facts on this issue being debated.
1. It is not entirely true of assumptions alluding that USP is very flexible as compared to institutions in Australia and NZ. Having experienced training at USP Laucala and Australia, I can say that there is no difference in the level of "flexibility" in whatever means other contributors have stated.
2. The delay in allowance payment by the SIG has been an ongoing issue for USP and other SIG sponsored students in other regional universities in PNG, Fiji (e.g. FSM & FIT), Vanuatu, and Samoa. By now 2008, the Ministry of Education or NTU should be very well versed with the lessons learned and should have in place strategies to address this issue. Therefore, half of the blame also rests on the sponsor because the SIG scholarships are merit based awards and fo failing to abide by the "entitlements" listed in the "Scholarship Offer Letter" is a national embarrassment and billitlement for a bigger nation (in terms of land size and population) in the Pacific Islands as compared to smaller island states that also send their students to USP. The sensible thing to do is that if the country cannot afford to properly look after the welfare of its human resource (tertiary students) at a timely manner when the need is at its climax, then just do not send students to universities in a foreign land just to expose them to shame, hunger, and hardship. In this modern era, "TIME" means everything.
In the past USP pays the book allowance in the first week of a semester and maintenance allowance in the second week and later bill it to the sponsor. However, I also sympathise with students at USP now, with the current arrangement where everything is done directly from the sponsor's end and when the sponsor fails to deliver its obligation at the time when its most needed then I can completely understand the anguish and impatience.
This therefore leads to the need of undertaking an independent review of the SIG Scholarship and the timing of its deliverance and if it has any correlation with student performance. Without that we cannot conclusively say, as per earlier contributions, that there is a clear link between delay in allowance and student failure and low performance. For example, when you say that last year because of the very late payment of allowance about 20 students were sent home for flopping their units after the first semester. In the past from 2000 up until 2006, there were also incidents where in some semesters there were more than 20 students who were either terminated by NTU or suspended by USP despite book allowance and maintenance allowance being paid on time. So there is no clear correlation but the need remains for a review of the SIG Scholarship that just like what AusAID and others are doing.
3. It is not true to say that only Science programs or courses are difficult at USP as opposed to Arts. It all depends on different courses coupled with other factors such as (i) the way the course is developed and delivered; (ii) the experience of the lecturer (s); (iii) an easy to approach lecturer or tutor; (iv) relevant course materials and textbook; (v) timely and motivating feedbacks from course coordinators; & (vi) the ability and committment of students to excel. At a tertiary level, I do not believe that one has to be a top achiever or "A" grade student to grasp what is being taught and excel in his/her studies. To pass or get good grades does not entirely depend on money as well. The bottom line is "sheer committment, hard work and Sacrifice". Even if you are an "average" student once you possess these qualities then you can become a top achiever as well. Unlike in High School where we have to be bright and clever to succeed, at university level we have to work hard, committed and make sacrifices to succeed. For example, one of our prominent wantoks by the name of Jack Maebuta is only a form 3 leaver, but due to possession of the above qualities to succeed he is now pursuing a PhD. Such is one of very motivating experiences by wantoks from SI that we can all learn from. So there should be little room for excuses of why we fail.
4. By now all students at USP Laucala should be familiar with the delay of maintenance and book allowance sydnrome from NTU and should never hit students as a surprise. Therefore, students should have budgeted a portion of their allowance from last semester to support them until this semester's allowance is paid. In fact I know that despite our days when I was under SIG sponsorship, our allowance was quite smaller in comparison to what students are getting now but still the allowance is more than enough. The common trend you see for students at USP is that as soon the allowance is paid you will see students going for luxury in the form of travelling in taxis for a seemingly walking distance, buying TV sets, cassette/CD/VCD/DVD players, and other wants that are not directly relevant for ones basic needs as a "student' or for educational relevance. Others tend to spend their excess pocket money in the night clubs as well as Village 6 Movies. I am not blaming students for this but it is now time that we learn to sacrifice some of those stuff and live within our means as a "student" so that we can save some $$ and faced with such situations as the delay in allowance or deaths of immediate family members at home then we can still thrive rather than being "krik" to the last coin.
Life is not easy sailing nowadays and we as the current & future leaders of our country need to develop a mindset change..
Student performance & Sponsor
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of Exsley Taloiburi and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.
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