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Scholarship scrutiny and merit important, FijiFirst stresses

Recipients of Government- funded scholarships are answerable to taxpayers and need to be shortlisted on merit, something which was not done previously, says FijiFirst general secretary, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. Speaking at
31 Aug 2014 08:13

Recipients of Government- funded scholarships are answerable to taxpayers and need to be shortlisted on merit, something which was not done previously, says FijiFirst general secretary, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Speaking at a recent campaign rally, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said scholarship recipients under the previous Fijian Affairs Board and Multi-Ethnic Affairs scheme were not necessarily chosen on merit.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum was asked at Waituri why the toppers scholarship for 600 students was given in selected fields.

He explained that Government’s long term plan included ensuring qualified people were found across critical sectors. There are very few surveyors in Fiji, hence the need for Government to ensure the best people were given scholarships to fill the obvious gap that exists in this sector.

He said that if scholarships were funded by the taxpayers, there also needed to be accountability and the need for taxpayers to also benefit from the education of people on scholarships.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said while approximately 20,000 students have been able to access tertiary education through scholarships and Tertiary Education Loan Scheme, previously only some 6000 to 7000 students benefitted annually under various schemes.

He also highlighted that those previous scholarships weren’t always as generous as current schemes.

He also highlighted how there used to be corruption and bias in the manner in which scholarships were handed out under the different schemes.

He said scholarships were given on whom- you- know basis or where you were in the socio-economic scale. The more connected you were, the higher the chances you and your children had at receiving scholarships, he said.

He also gave an example of how some students took ten years to complete a four- year course while fully funded under previous scholarship schemes.

He said that we as a nation required road engineers, marine scientists, land surveyors, town planners and doctors. This was why scholarships were given in these areas, he said.

He said we as a nation required our people to be qualified in the right areas of expertise so not only they progressed, but the country as a whole benefitted.

His explanation was well received by the crowd who either responded with “yes” or claps while he spoke.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also agreed that this being the first year the TELS was rolled out there were teething problems, but work was being done to fine tune the process.

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