Big election promise from SODELPA

SODELPA Leader Sitiveni Rabuka has today announced that a SODELPA Government will remove the tertiary loan scheme operated by the Tertiary Scholarships and Loans Board, convert existing loans to scholarships, and offer scholarships to all tertiary students who wish to study. Rabuka says this would be an extension of free education to tertiary institutions.

He says that development is the duty of every government, and as the nation progressed, more and more developments and benefits could be extended to the whole nation by successive governments.

Rabuka says they will convert all existing loans to scholarships, meaning it will not have to be repaid, but that students will serve a bond which is a requirement to work in Fiji, for the duration of their term of sponsorship.

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He then says that scholarships will be offered in the areas of priority of the government, meaning in the areas where Fiji requires certain professions and trades, to benefit the nation. The SODLEPA Leader says the travel ban on students on guarantors is also a breach of their human rights.

He says travel restrictions should not be imposed by civil servants or a statutory body like the TSLB, but only by the Courts, given it is a limitation of the freedom of movement of people. SODELPA’s petition to have tuition fee free education at the three universities and 14 technical colleges in the country was defeated in parliament last year.

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SODELPA MP, Viliame Gavoka had said that it is necessary for the petition to be referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee as the government can afford to have fee free tertiary education. Gavoka said $110 million will be needed for this initiative, and this can be done by reducing the roads and water budget.

Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed‑Khaiyum had said during the debate that more students are going to universities after the introduction of the Tertiary Education Loans and Scholarship Scheme. He said the roads and water budget cannot be reduced.

Sayed‑Khaiyum also raised the question on who will pay for all the tax dollars used to just help students graduate and they then go to other countries. Education Minister, Doctor Mahendra Reddy had said this is just another drama being created by the opposition.

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