The Morobe Students Union at UPNG carries out annual awareness tours to districts, to give something back in return for what the provincial government spends on them annually through the Gerson Solulu Scholarship.
By EHEYUPE ERINUC
THE Morobe Students Union of the University of Papua New Guinea is a group registered under the university’s sports and recreation office and has more than 300 members every year.
It is not just a student group but more like an organisation that has its own well-established organisational structure with a good constitution governing it.
The union is made up of students from the nine districts of Morobe – Kabwum, Tewae-Siassi, Finschhafen, Nawaeb, Lae, Huon Gulf, Bulolo, Menyamya and Markham.
They have eight sub-associations that represent each district except that Finschhaffen and Tewai Siassi students come under one association. Studnets from the Medical Faculty are considered part of the union and regarded as one of the association under MSU.
These sub-associations actively participate in corporative activities that lead to achieving the goals and objectives set by union every year.
There are amusing activities that students enjoy themselves in every year in togetherness and bonds that they have strengthened and built valuable relationships. Students also freely participate in other similar groups as stated by former president Vandenberg Guimaip. He said, however, that such groups did not exist to promote regionalism.
“In such a big institution you will be fortunate to build relationships with other people from other parts of the country,” Guimaip said.
“Building relationships is one of the important aspects of life while being in school. You will come to realise that it has many benefits during and even after school.”
The Morobe government is very committed and actively sponsors the majority of the students attending UPNG with almost full payment of their school fees under the Gerson Solulu Scholarship scheme.
More than K1 million has been spent every year for Morobe students at UPNG alone, money which should have been used for development activities in the province.
Thousands of people in the province are suffering badly for want of better government goods and services while this huge sum of money has been spent on several hundred students yearly.
Their government knows what it is doing; building human resource is key to development. The scholarship was established under former governor Luther Wenge and up until today this scholarship scheme is catering for almost students attending 23 tertiary institutions in the country.
It is a policy Wenge’s successor Kelly Naru and incumbent Ginson Saonu had to adopt as they know its immense benefit and significance for the future of the province.
People of Morobe are very privileged as not all provinces have such benefits from subsidy funding. Leaders like Wenge fought really hard to keep this benefit going. Even when he was not in power Wenge fought for the scholarship as was his initiative.
In 2018, when the budget for the scholarship was cut, he said that government should respond to the people’s immediate needs and tuition fees were among those needs.
“Do not downplay the funding issues associated with this programme because it is the future of our children and our future,” he said.
Morobe has reason for such a scholarship because most places are very remote and this initiative from their government has benefited majority of the students coming from various remote and disadvantaged areas whose parents cannot meet fees charged by the universities and colleges. Their government’s commitment encourages students to take every opportunity to contribute to their province at their level.
That is one of the reasons why former student union president Roger Maike in 2014, initiated a programme to give back to the province at the end of every school year. It is an awareness programme under which students consult leaders from districts to identify the real needs or issues people are encountering so they would prepare to address those issues through awareness.
The areas mostly covered in their awareness include social issues like health, law and order and others. They also give motivational talks to parents and students to prioritise education and make informed choices in life as it is the only key to survive in this modern world.
This is how students at their level are giving back to their province in return for what has been done for them.
In 2014, they covered Finschafen and Markham districts and in 2015, due to no available funding, there was no end-of-year awareness.
In 2016 students used their semester break to carry out election education awareness in all nine districts supported by the Electoral Commission as it was near the election the following year. They educated people about the election based on several topics including good governance, clarification on the new Limited Preferential Voting system and the qualities of good leadership.
The 2017, awareness visits to Menyamya and Bulolo districts were delayed until in early 2018 before the students returned to school. They used the resources set to do awareness instead in Lae urban schools and donated K15,000 worth of assets to these schools. It was due to limited time on students break because they have to return early to school to complete their studies to make up for the time taken by student unrest in 2016.
Another successful awareness was done at the end of last year by more than 30 union members covering two districts, Nawaeb in east Morobe and Huon Gulf to the west.
There are many good feedbacks received during awareness carried out and so far, there are some good impacts that students have measured from specific indicators to help plan for next awareness.
The results motivated students schools visited and places made into universities and colleges. It is like giving a direction or map to someone who are on their way to unknown places they have dreamt about. Without the guide and help from those who are familiar with the route and place, it might be difficult for them at some point.
This year the student union is planning to visit Kabwum district which is one of the most challenging and disadvantaged districts that has problems accessing government goods and services.
Jesse Roneka, the current president of the union said the set programme was to do two districts each year but because of its emoteness and the high cost of logistics, they would tour only Kabwum this year.
The students do their own fundraising to meet their people’s need.
Information is a vital tool in deciding on their future. Not everyone has formal education and better understanding of how the world is evolving today.
The Government can do as much as it can but if people don’t have the understanding, nothing would change. Therefore, information given to them by their own children or siblings may change their lives.
One of the main fundraising activities for this social support awareness is the hosting of provincial day in Port Moresby.
In previous years, there have been many criticisms about hosting provincial days led by students because of poor performance in their studies and that is true. However, students can manage their time well to achieve things because many have gone through this at the university and passed out with success.
Building themselves in such events and also manage pressure by doing a lot at the same time can equip them better to face the real world outside.