Release the grant, our future depends on it: USP Students Association

The University of The South Pacific Students Association (USPSA) has expressed disappointment and asks whether the Fijian Government has their future at heart in choosing to withhold grant payment to the regional university.

In a 3-page statement responding to comments made by Fiji’s Attorney General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in the Fijian Parliament yesterday, the USPSA said the decision by the Fijian Government puts “current and prospective students and the collective regional futures of blue Pacific at serious risk.”

“At a time when the university needs funding and a united front to help and assist equip our students to navigate the serious difficulties brought about by COVID-19 and the upgrading of its long-deferred infrastructural maintenance, Fiji is pulling the rug from under us and creating division within the Pacific family,” the statement read.

“USP students are clearly struggling with the new environment exacerbated by the global pandemic which has totally changed the future we are preparing for. This means that we need to equip our students with innovative ideas and make them resilient leaders to be able to respond to future challenges. For this to be done effectively, there needs to be a sustainable investment in the university and a timely receipt of grant funds.”

Sayed-Khaiyum said Fiji will only resume grant payment when a new Vice-Chancellor of USP is appointed and investigations are carried out into allegations against the reinstated VC, Professor Pal Ahluwalia. He implied that Fiji was not the only country that had reservations about the appointment, pointing out that there were “significant abstentions and opposition in the council.”

Citing comments made by Sayed-Khaiyum who described Professor Pal’s re-appointment as “a backward and divisive step that goes against the interest of students and regional goodwill” in light of allegations against him, the USPSA asked whether the Fijian Government felt the same way for the students and the region when allegations against Professor Pal’s predecessor surfaced.

“The severe lack of funding affects us the most. The students are the major stakeholders in the university. Withholding funds and payments since 2019 is tantamount to ransom. We call on the Fijian Government to immediately release the grant payments that it owes USP because our future depends on it.”

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