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Students suffer humiliation, hunger and health problems due to allowance delay

SOLOMON Islands Government SIG-sponsored students in Fiji are feeling the brunt of the country’s cash-flow problem.

Halfway through June and they are still waiting for their monthly allowance, facing an all too familiar routine of foraging around for food to survive the day.

Heart-breaking testimonies from students challenge the so-called principles of the DCCG in its policies on the country’s human resources, which Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare had touched on in his 2015 address to students at Laucala campus.

Students, driven by extreme hunger, are reportedly resorting to fruits from the many breadfruit and coconut trees which line USP’s Laucala campus roads, and also trees along the nearby suburbs. One student shared in his Facebook account having to pluck one from a breadfruit tree in the heart of Suva.

Another student shares via Facebook, “[…we no longer feel ashamed of having to eat like beggars or hermits. While passers-by or students from other countries look on, we harvest the fruits. It’s either give in to feeling ashamed and go to bed with an empty stomach, or swallow our pride and eat to live another day].”

Speaking to Island Sun, a student, with only FJD$1.35 left on her, said she and her fellow house-mates have been given till tomorrow, Friday June 16, to pay their rent or vacate the premises the same day.

“Our landlord has told us that he has had enough of the inconsistency and delay in rental payments and we are now scouting nearby places for houses to let, because we are sure that the allowance will not be available by Friday.”

There are also reports that some students are facing malnutrition due to eating unhealthy for the past weeks.

Making matters worse, many students are questioning their chances of success in their semester-one results. Many are said to have sat their exams on an empty stomach – something which educationists heavily advocate against.

Meanwhile, in Solomon Islands Student Association (SISA) Facebook forum page, the students were reassured by the SISA executive that they would receive their allowances most probably by Thursday or Friday this week, or next week at the latest.

“I met with the NTU director this morning and we both went to the finance office to check up on the allowance. We were informed by the finance officer that they will send the TT document to ANZ Bank and ANZ bank will send it to the central bank for speedy clearance before ANZ Bank will send it over to Fiji. I spoke with the NTU Director to ensure that he puts pressure on the bank to process this as soon as possible. Thus, we hope to get the fund by Thursday or Friday this week. The latest should be early next week.”

However, the students were also cautioned in the same post that the government does not have enough funds to cater for all the students studying overseas and that if push comes to shove, students would have to be recalled home.

“Honestly speaking there is not enough budget to cater for all the students overseas, including those studies internationally and those in the region. On this note, I’d like to inform you all that if bad came to worst. SIG will be sending us back home (Solomon Islands). This is just a heads up.”

This implication in the SISA post is also having salt-to-wound effect on students, causing mixed feelings, leaving many wondering why the government had not had the foresight in sending students within its budget.

A student speaking to the paper on anonymity says, “With our sick government, we are worried. Firstly, most of June’s allowance will be swallowed by rent and debt repayments, leaving us with titbits to hold us for July’s allowance. And, even July’s allowance promises to be another headache cos we would only be entitled after having submitted our registration forms, which usually are available after July 10.

“The problem of delayed allowance has intensified this year compared to last, and many students are planning to return home and register at the SI campus.”

Meanwhile, sources inside the Treasury confirm that the allowance fund had been raised and pushed through the ANZ bank on Tuesday afternoon.

“The money has been deposited to the ANZ bank yesterday afternoon, and now it is up to the banks to work against the clock to make sure that the students receive their allowance by the end of this week.”

This reassurance from the Treasury is a short respite for the suffering students and raises hopes that students do not get evicted by their landlords come tomorrow.

However, the concern remains that the students will again face this cycle of suffering and humiliation in July, and gain for the remaining months of this year, unless the government pulls up its socks and address the problem.