Govt decision giving parents some hope

Editorial

THE decision by the Government to relook at the University of Papua New Guinea fee structure for 2018 will bring some relief to students and parents who simply cannot afford what is being imposed now.
The 2018 fees increased in some programmes by up to 200 per cent from last year are the result of the cut in Government allocation to the university in the 2018 national Budget. The university has no choice but to pass that on to the students through a hike in fees.
Following meetings yesterday, between State and university officials, there is a ray of hope that the fees may remain the same.
One hopes so, too, because so much has been mentioned by the government about the importance in investing in human capital for the future.
Many citizens will agree that the government’s education policy, in particular the tuition fee-free subsidies to schools, has worked wonders.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has mentioned often here and abroad about the successful model his government has adopted to ensure the nation has an educated population. An educated population, he rightly points out, is what the nation needs moving forward, with a higher standard of living.
Some still remember what he told a public forum at the National Research Institute last April about education being “first and foremost” on the People’s National Congress Party agenda.
He mentioned the need to make sure that tertiary education merges “with what we are producing at the lower levels of education”.
He also mentioned the funding of a loan scheme where students are able to get a loan from Government so that they can educate themselves up to tertiary level.
This is what many other countries are doing and if managed effectively and properly, everyone, especially students going to universities and tertiary institutions ,are going to benefit in the end. They can repay their loans slowly once they have jobs.
In New Zealand, for example, a student loan is paid back at an annual rate of 10 per cent of the borrower’s annual salary, once
the borrower has earned over $19,084 a year.
The payment comes off the borrower’s pay automatically and is managed by Inland Revenue.
The scheme has worked elsewhere and there is no reason it cannot work in this country.
O’Neill also mentioned the establishment of an education endowment fund where a certain percentage of resource developments are parked into it by law. The fund will be specifically for the education of our children.
The task at hand right now is to find a way to avoid the increase in fees.
Two groups of students attending the university have this week voiced their concern. The president of one of the groups says he wants to continue his degree programme but may be forced out if the fee increase stays.
Some of the fees have increased by nearly 200 per cent, making it impossible for those from poor families to pay.
The university council increased the fees because to meet the cost of essential utilities and maintain the operations of the university’s teaching and learning activities.
One of the parents, David Taim, was seen this week outside the Bank South Pacific on Waigani Drive with hundreds of other parents wanting to secure a loan for fees for his child attending UPNG this year.
Taim is prepared to draw on his life savings from Nambawan Super to allow his child to go to university.
His plight epitomises the plight of thousands of parents around the country. At least he has something to fall back on. Others, especially those from rural areas, may not be so lucky.
They are pinning their hopes on government intervention.
They all need it.

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