By DULCIE OREKE and GABRIEL FITO
THE death toll through violence at the country’s two premier universities stands at 16 – a figure which the Office of Higher Education (OHE) is seriously concerned about.
OHE director Dr William Tagis said yesterday 11 deaths had been reported at the biggest and oldest tertiary institution University of Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby while five had been recorded at the University of Technology (Unitech) in Lae, Morobe, including last week’s violent death of a Sepik student.
The deaths included both students and academic staff, he said.
Tagis said the number of deaths was high and was one of numerous issues that the OHE would be looking at solving.
“There has to be a lot of soul searching in the education sector,” Tagis said.
He also said stress was becoming a problem among the academic staff due to an obvious shortage while student numbers per teaching staff had gone from 15 to more than 100 students.
Tagis said there would be a workshop on the alignment of the university with the Vision 2050 at Unitech in the next few weeks which will look at universities managements, student enrolments, staff numbers and the students’ study and living environment.
Meanwhile, Sepik students at Unitech have petitioned the administration to ensure those responsible for the death of their colleague on campus are dealt with by the full force of the law.
Those who fled the West Taraka campus following the confrontation with students from Chimbu, said in Wewak on Monday that normal investigation into the death of first year applied science student Milton Maniura of Yangoru, East Sepik, must take its course so that those responsible were prosecuted.
The student leaders said they also wanted the Unitech management sidelined and for a commission of inquiry into the trouble.
The students were backed by East Yangoru LLG president Robert Howen who said he would push for an inquiry.
They said in their petition that the administration should be held responsible for their properties lost during the fights, including seven computers, because of negligence on its part and that of the security guards.
They also called for the removal of Kuima Security Service from the campus.
The student leaders said despite instructions from the administration with the endorsement from the university council for all students to return, they would not comply until all their demands in the petition are met.
They said the students’ safety on the campus was still a major concern among themselves and parents and therefore they would not return.