Resumption of class set for PNG's UNITECH
The vice-chancellor of the University of Technology in Papua New Guinea is confident the majority of his students will return to class this week.
The vice-chancellor of the University of Technology in Papua New Guinea says he's confident the majority of his students will return to class this week.
Students across PNG have been boycotting lectures since the beginning of May while demanding the Prime Minister step down to face fraud allegations.
Following a meeting between the Chief Secretary for Government, Isaac Lupari, and university leaders, Ben Robinson-Drawbridge spoke with the Unitech Vice Chancellor, Dr Albert Schram.
Albert Schram: They focused very much on the cost issue, but it is actually more a matter of focusing on saving the academic year and saving the academic integrity of our programmes. For our university the costs have been about four million (PNG Kina) so far. It's made up of overtime payments for security guards, extra meals because we've had all the students all the time on campus, those type of things.
Ben Robinson-Drawbridge: Did Mr Lupari indicate that the costs you've incurred would be collected by the government?
AS: Not exactly, but he said he would have a talk with the Secretary of Treasury and Finance and then they hope that they can cover the damage so far.
BRD: Would you be able to complete the academic year without further government funding?
AS: Yes, we can delay some payments. So four million, that's about 10 percent of our operational budget. We can deal with that, I hope. But of course, we made our own submission and if we are in trouble then we'll tell them immediately. So the government has been keen on keeping the universities financially afloat because this crisis with the student boycott is not of our own doing. It is an issue that the government has to solve for the students, it's not the university administration.
AS: So he (Mr Lupari) wanted to hear from the universities how we had dealt with the boycott so far. In our case they were reassured in the sense that we have a six week boycott, but we have also a four week semester break. So those four weeks were basically used for the boycott and then a bit more. So what we did is we went from a 15 to a 13 week semester, and then we used the other two weeks and then there was some more time lost. But we've reached a point that now we really have to start. So classes started on Monday, but attendance has been a bit low still, about a third of the students. We have developed a situation where the students are disagreeing amongst themselves and they're telling each other not to go to classes and that has provoked a bit of a slow start.
AS: What was interesting yesterday is that we have a female dorm. The female students all met yesterday and they decided all to go to classes. So they have gone to classes in groups because there are still a few, they're not even students, but people on campus who like to challenge and intimidate students who go to classes. So that is a very positive development, and 40 percent of our student population is female, so we have that group already on-board.
AS: The situation at the other universities is a bit more iffy, but at Unitech I'm confident that we can have a substantial class attendance by the end of this week and hopefully by giving a good example the students in the other universities will also return to classes because there is really not much more time to waste.
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