PRESS RELEASE - Port Moresby, 12th October 2010 - The Government of Papua New Guinea has announced 20 full scholarships for each year, for the next five years, for youths and students in the Pacific region to study at institutions in the country.

Speaking at the opening of the 8th Forum Education Ministers' Meeting in Port Moresby this afternoon, Prime Minister of PNG, Sir Michael Somare said: "PNG is committed to playing its part in ensuring that Pacific youths are equipped to compete in today's globalised environment. I therefore have the pleasure of announcing on behalf of the government and the 6.5 million people of Papua New Guinea, 20 full scholarships to be made available each year for youths and students in the Pacific region including PNG to attend tertiary institutions in Papua New Guinea,"

Sir Michael explained: "Students will be trained in science and technological subjects such as chemistry, biology, physics, geology, mathematics, marine and environmental science, agricultural science, communication, ICT and medicine."

"The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat will implement the scholarship and organise bidding from Pacific countries for scholarships to study in Papua New Guinea.

"This will ensure that we continue to develop and expand skilled human resources for a better, happy and prosperous Pacific," Prime Minister Sir Michael said.

PNG Prime Minister Sir Michael told the opening ceremony which featured colourful traditional dancing representing the various regions of the country, that "the most important asset prevalent in the region is our children and youths. They are the future of the Pacific. The success of the region depends on the quality of human capital that we can harness and develop for a better Pacific."

"We cannot talk about development in the region without developing our human resources, because educating and skilling our people are the fundamental building blocks for the Pacific region. If this foundation is weak then the livelihood of our people will be difficult to improve."

Sir Michael told the Forum Education Ministers that "the PNG Education Department is working at implementing universal basic education in a measured and sustainable way and I encourage all Pacific nations to allocate more resources in the development of our children and youths."

"More attention must also be given to Technical, Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in the region. Our region is facing skilled and specialist manpower shortages to meet our development and industry needs."

PNG's Prime Minister revealed that Papua New Guinea needs 40 thousand plus skilled labour such as bricklayers, electricians, bulldozer drivers, and carpenters, etc to meet the demand for skilled labour in renewable and non-renewable economic sectors.

"TVET is the master key that will open doors for many of our youths to find employment in our rapidly growing sectors," said Sir Michael.

The PNG Prime Minister also spoke of the importance of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the education of the region's children and the key role education plays in reducing the widening gap in socio-economic inequalities.

The Forum Education Ministers and their officials as well as representatives of other regional organizations, development partners, United Nations agencies and multi-lateral organizations will commence discussions tomorrow.