The Governor General Sir David Vunagi has suggested the introduction of school fee loan schemes to help boost access to education in the country.
In his New Year’s nationwide address on January 1, Sir David highlighted the downside of students being sent home from schools as a result of parents struggling to pay school fees.
He said while education is not the panacea to every human challenge, it does have a positive bearing in creating a sustainable society, responsible communities and stable economies.
“We cannot deny the importance of funding to allow schools and educational institutions to operate efficiently. But we must realize that about 80% of parents whose children are in secondary and tertiary institutions live in the rural areas and rely heavily on subsistence means”.
“For such parents, the cliché ‘no fee no school’ is a major obstacle because the level of fees charged is just beyond their means,” Sir David said.
Sir David said if data has been compiled about the number of students who withdrew from formal education during the last two or three decades because of difficulties in payment of fees, we would be surprised to see how we have continued to operate a very unfair system of education.
“It would also be difficult to understand why and how school authorities happily allow students to leave because fee is the issue of contention,” the Queen’s representative said.
According to Sir David, a progressive system of education should not allow a discriminative aspect to be attached to it.
The drastic reduction of students’ enrolment at the Solomon Islands National University from 8000 in the first Semester to 5000 in the Second Semester of 2021 is a classic example.
Sir David said it is good that Primary education is “free of charge” but consideration should also be given to make secondary and tertiary education basically affordable to assist self-employed fee-payers.
“We need to explore the possibility of charging concessional fees or providing soft loan schemes to assist students who are determined to pursue studies with predictable positive results. To be silent about the principle of – ‘no fee no school’ only supports marginalization, social exclusion and poverty that will further increase the gap between the ‘haves and the have nots,” he added.
“More importantly, we need to move away from the deficit mindset that focus on negative and practical problems the parents and students are facing. We should pay more attention on the potential and opportunity they have as human resource assets for our nation,” Sir David said.
-GCU Media Release