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They are all students – only allowances separate them

THEY share a number of common denominators. They are students. They are sponsored by the Solomon Islands Government at the Solomon Islands National University (SINU).

They hail from the nation’s two campuses – Panatina and Kukum in Honiara.

They are Solomon Islands nationals – future potential leaders of this island nation. But that is where their commonalities end.

Payments of their scholarship dues separate them – all because Members of Parliament have decided to handle some scholarship payments.

Yesterday the unfortunate ones who missed out on payments that came in drabs and dribbles, gathered outside the Office of the Prime Minister, demanding answers.

They are angry and frustrated.

“We want to know why we should be treated any differently,” they said almost in a chorus of anger and frustration.

“They want to separate us – but we are all sponsored by the Solomon Islands government. Why should others be paid by MPs and others by the National Training Unit (NTU),” they demanded.

They are angry because most of them should have left on their teaching experience assignments already.

“We should have left last Sunday but we could not do so because the government has not paid our allowances and other dues as yet. This week we started eating second grade Solomon taiyo with rice. It is not good. We are now at the mercy of SINU,” they said.

There are 2,102 students whose payments are still outstanding. Each is owed $19,100, the students claimed. These are to cover our rentals, travels and so on,” they said.

In total, the government owes the students some $40,148, 200 (forty million one hundred forty-eight and two hundred dollars.)

After a brief encounter with officials of the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, the students made their way back to the Office of the Prime Minister.

They were told to wait on the front lawn of the Office of the Office of the Prime Minister while the Minister of Education, Human Resources Development, Hon John Fugui was summoned to brief Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on the status of the payment.

I left the students on the front lawn of the Prime Minister’s Office as the more I listened to their plight, the more depressed I became.

Today and indeed the rest of this week, the students would be hoping that their cries for payments stipulated under the scholarship contract they entered into with the government are heard and acted upon.

Given the status of government finances, the students – all Solomon Islands students – could still be waiting, come next week.

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