NATION

‘We Will Better Empower Our Youths’

We appreciate that education sets our youths free to pursue their dreams in life. Therefore, to empower our youths, we must give them the opportunity to get a good education
07 Jul 2018 10:00
‘We Will Better Empower Our Youths’
Unity Fiji party leader Savenaca Narube.

We appreciate that education sets our youths free to pursue their dreams in life.

Therefore, to empower our youths, we must give them the opportunity to get a good education and secure a job or start their own businesses.

Let us examine how the 2018-2019 National Budget measures up to these three issues.

Opportunity to tertiary education

I fully support free tuition up to high school level. Many see the FijiFirst Government as the only government that has offered free tuition. That is not true.

Free tuition started well before this Government came into power in 2006.

High school qualification, while necessary, is not sufficient. It is simply a stepping stone to tertiary education. We must therefore take the education debate to accessing education at the tertiary level.

The biggest barriers to tertiary education are finding a place in an education institute and paying the tuition fees. Finding a place is not a constraint because of the many institutions that we currently have. The biggest challenge is the affordability of fees.

The 2018-2019 National Budget increases the allocation to the scholarship scheme. Does this mean that more students will be able to get scholarships? This may not necessarily be true if the qualifying marks remain the same.

The qualifying marks must therefore come down.

Opportunity to iTaukei students

In my view, the current scholarship scheme excludes a big number of iTaukei students whose marks are below other ethnic students. We all know the reasons for the underperformance of the iTaukei students in education.

I have therefore been expecting Government to announce measures to improve the opportunity for iTaukei students of getting a scholarship. This is a fundamental issue which the Government continues to ignore.

Through this TOPPERS qualification system, Government has virtually relegated iTaukei students to the loan scheme.

People will, of course, point out that we should compete for scholarships on equal grounds. I have a different view. We can only compete on equal terms if our starting positions are somewhat the same.

If an ethnic group faces special challenges then, it is our responsibility to address these challenges. Ignoring them will create a bigger issue in the future.

Even developed countries address education issues that are specific to a special group. Unity Fiji will do likewise here without breaking any existing laws.

Unity Fiji is concerned with the big debt that each student carries before they start to earn an income, which can amount to $25,000. I do not think this is fair.

The budget offers an incentive for those who repay their loan faster. This rewards the rich. Many who pay their education loan early would most likely be assisted by someone else. You can count iTaukei students out of this lot.

And spare a thought for those who can’t find jobs. They carry this debt for a long time.

I was therefore disappointed that the 2018-2019 National Budget did not have anything for this group.

Unity Fiji will empower this group of students.

Our first step will be to remove the draconian measure of preventing these students from travelling abroad. In addition, we will restructure the loan scheme to lighten the load of these young people.

Opportunities to get a job

Youth unemployment is extremely high at 30 per cent.

We can simply look at the villages and settlements across the country to tell us how bad the unemployment situation is. Getting a tertiary education is necessary, but our qualified youths must find a job.

Getting jobs depends on the ability of those who provide jobs to do so and that is the private sector. I have said this and will repeat it here, Government is preventing the development of the private sector by playing favourites.

Unity Fiji will start by knocking down the barriers to growing the private sectors, especially the small and micro businesses.

First, we will treat everyone equally whether you support us or not.

Second, we will remove the fees and regulations that shackle the private sector.

Third, we will review the taxes that are piling up on top of each other.

Finally, we will nurture small businesses to become medium and ultimately big businesses.

Opportunities to start own business

Many youths may be good at creating a business. I believe that the Youth Employment Scheme (YES) is a good one. But like many programmes that the Government initiates, the level of support is insufficient and its structure is isolated.

Unity Fiji will firstly restructure the scheme.

Secondly, we will integrate it to other schemes to take advantage of the economies of scale.

Thirdly, we will raise the allocation, and finally, we will provide incentive for success.

I believe in evaluating schemes carefully and providing the resources including money to make them successful.

Unity Fiji will empower our youths to achieve something better than what they started off with.

I believe that this must be our aspiration in life.

 

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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