Opinion

‘Free Education For All’

I believe that education is a right and not a privilege. We never really stop learning in our lives. Formal education seems to start early these days before students progress
20 Oct 2018 11:00
‘Free Education For All’
Unity Fiji party leader Savenaca Narube.

I believe that education is a right and not a privilege.

We never really stop learning in our lives.

Formal education seems to start early these days before students progress to primary, high school and tertiary levels.

Each level is a building block to the next one. I believe it is our duty to empower them to reach the high­est level of education that they are capable of.

Over the last twenty-five years, successive governments have pro­gressively provided free education. Qarase’s government extended it to the early years of high school.

FijiFirst took it a step further to Form 7. I believe that this trend reflects the growing realisation of the important role of education in the future of our children.

Tertiary education is at the apex of the formal education chain. However, sadly, Unity Fiji saw that the current TOPPERS and TELS schemes are discriminatory, ineq­uitable and, most importantly, too burdensome. Many of our tertiary students have little choice but to take the loan scheme which can saddle a student with a debt as high as $30,000 or even $100,000 for doc­tors and pilots.

This is not in line with our princi­ple that education must be a right.

Unity Fiji will therefore put its money where our mouth is and provide free education through to the tertiary level.

We will provide the following:

  • Full scholarship to Fiji citi­zens that secure a place at an approved tertiary institution in Fiji.
  • Full tuition scholarship to Fiji citizens that secure a place at an approved techni­cal institution in Fiji.
  • Remove the burdensome TELS.
  • Forgive the existing loans of past TELS students who have served in Fiji for at least three years.
  • Introduce a performance system that will give oppor­tunities for non-performing students to improve their performance.
  • Review the assistance to Ear­ly Childhood Education.
  • Remove the restrictions of students with loans from travelling abroad.

 

Unity Fiji believes that the new structure brings the following benefits to our students:

  • Empowers our children to re­alise the job of their dreams.
  • Fair to all students irrespec­tive of ethnicity and age.
  • Removes the heavy debt that students carry at the end of their studies.
  • Eases the financial burden of past students repaying their debt to government early in their working lives.
  • Instils performance into the scholarship system to moti­vate students to qualify at the shortest possible time and find a job.
  • Supports the education of our trade professionals whose skills are lacking in the country.
  • Promote students to progress to postgraduate degrees of masters and even doctors.

 

Many would rightly ask: Where will the money come from? My answers to this important ques­tion are:

  • Government is already pay­ing for the students on TOP­ERS which they have in­creased to over 800 students.
  • Government is already lend­ing money to those that are on TELS.
  • With our estimate of ad­ditional students who will enrol per year and applying the average cost per year per student, we need to find an additional $50 million. We can easily find the money by reprioritising expenses. For instance, we can divert the money that the government is using to buy votes towards education and still have some left over!

 

Therefore, finding the money for this scholarship scheme will not be a problem.

I have prepared five national budgets and I have the experience to find the money for more im­portant priorities like education. Better prioritization is the key to budgeting. Instead of funding short-term populist spending, I will channel these to the priority areas like education and health.

The flip side to education for all is to find employment for students that have qualified. Jobs are hard to find. Government lacks the eco­nomic vision to provide more jobs.

With our experience in managing the economy, Unity Fiji will imple­ment an integrated plan that will grow the economy to its potential of 5 per cent per year which will provide more jobs for our school leavers.

We have not forgotten the impor­tance of informal or community education in moulding our lives.

I believe that we need to do more of community education to pro­mote tolerance and understanding of ethnic groups; educate parents and teachers on managing the rights and discipline of their chil­dren; educate resource owners on the laws governing their resources; and change mindsets to increase the utilisation of resources.

I believe that education is the key that will unlock the doors to a brighter future for our children. I always motivate my children and now my grandchildren to bet­ter the situation that they started with. And education will give them power to progress towards achiev­ing their dreams.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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