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Gov’t slams report on students deferring studies

THE Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development (MEHRD) has rebutted the front page article, headlined Students to defer studies, of Island Sun Newspaper, Thursday 20 July 2017, as misleading, false and unsubstantiated.

In the article, the Opposition Press Release claimed that “they have been informed that the Education Ministry has advised the Education Attaché in Suva to inform our local students in Fiji to defer their studies if they wish to.

We are aware that an email has been sent by the Attaché to advise students that the financial situation in the country is not getting any better and that students allowances will be affected throughout the year; therefore students have been advised to defer their studies.”

The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development has described the article as an example of unethical practices of journalism, which failed miserably to verify the facts with relevant authorities concerned before publishing such incorrect articles.

According to the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development, there is no plan to ask the students to come home because of the financial crisis that the country may be experiencing.

This was explained to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday 13th July 2017, during which the Ministry of Education officials appeared before the PAC in an inquiry on the 2016 budget spending and expenditure.

The PAC notified MEHRD officials that there were rumours going around that claimed NTU/MEHRD would call students back home because of financial difficulties to pay sponsored students’ allowances.

The MEHRD officials assured the PAC that there were no plans to call back students from their studies and that MEHRD and the Ministry of Finance and Treasury officials were doing all that was possible to process payments to students including their tuition fees.

The correct information according to the Ministry of Education is that – individual students may have been granted approval to defer their studies due to various reasons.

Such students apply to the National Training Committee (NTC) and NTC deliberates on such student cases, analyses the students’ reasons for applying to defer their studies and makes decisions for any deferral of studies.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development, Dr Franco Rodie, contacted the Education Attaché in Suva this morning about the claim made by the Opposition Media Press Release and the Suva-based officer denied any knowledge of any email in which she may have advised the students to defer their studies.

The Director of the National Training Unit has also confirmed that there was no advice issued to the students by his office.

Putting the issue of deferral of studies aside, the obvious news which the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development is aware of is the termination of students who had failed their courses in semester one and had not met the academic requirements according to the new scholarships policy and procedures.

A decision has been made by the National Training Committee for the terminated students to come home according to the arrangements being made by the National Training Unit.

Dr Rodie stood by his Ministry’s position that the claim made by the Opposition Press Release published in today’s Island Sun issue (Thursday 20 July 2017, Issue 2653) is erroneously false and misleading.

The Permanent Secretary assured the students who had passed their semester one courses that the Government will continue to support them in accordance to their scholarship conditions and entitlements.

Dr Rodie further stressed that any news item about education development and scholarships for that matter should be verified with his ministry before publishing on the media.

This is to avoid information being published that will mislead and confuse the readers and the public at large.

He calls for cooperation from the media outlets to do their reporting with integrity and responsibility.