No Fijian student who is accepted into university should be denied the opportunity to attend because they cannot afford it. That was the message of Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama (pictured) when he announced, from France, a new Government loan package ? worth $2 million ? available to students from low-income families today.
The Prime Minister said that the new program was a serious investment in Fiji?s future and that the returns for the country would be significant.
?My Government is committed to increasing Fiji?s intellectual capital to meet the need for young professionals of all types as Fiji continues to develop and modernise,? the Prime Minister said.
The loan package ? which will cover the cost of tuition ? will be available to students who receive letters of acceptance from tertiary institutions, but who are unable to pay for it.
?We must ensure that all of Fiji?s talented and bright youth have the ability and opportunity to attend university ? that cost isn?t a barrier ,? the Prime Minister said. ?As a direct result of this initiative ? in four to five years ? we will have a more robust and expansive group of young professionals in Fiji. Not only does this mean more high-skilled and better-paid jobs for our young people, but it will also bring benefit for their families, for their communities and for all Fijians.?
The Prime Minister said that ? over the past few years ? his Government had been focused on increasing access to primary and secondary education, and that now it was time to do the same for tertiary education.
?In the 2013 Budget, we announced two major new tertiary scholarship programs ? the agricultural and trade scholarships ? to add to the existing scholarship initiatives,? he said. ?And now, with this new initiative, we will have the ability to help more Fijian students than ever before.?
Explaining the details of the loan package,?Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum?said that eligible students would receive a Government loan ? with a low interest rate of 0.5% to 1% ? to pay for tuition and living expenses.
Students would only be asked to begin repaying the loan once they started working and were earning a reasonable salary.
The Attorney-General said that Government had liaised with the Vice Chancellors of the?University of the South Pacific, ?the?Fiji National University?and the?University of Fiji?, who warmly welcomed the idea and will provide the list of students from their respective universities who have received a letter of offer, but who are facing difficulties paying their tuition.
?Countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom have very similar initiatives, which have proven to be very successful,? the Attorney-General mentioned. ?The relevant guidelines and laws will soon be in place, and details of this program will be published in the tomorrow?s paper.?
In order to qualify, an applicant must have a letter of acceptance from a tertiary institution in Fiji for the current academic year and must be able to demonstrate that he or she is unable to meet the financial requirements ? either in full or in part.
Applications must be submitted no later than February 25th, 2013 in order to receive the loan this year.
The Prime Minister urged all eligible students and their parents to take advantage of this new program.
?This is all about building a better, smarter and modern Fiji. This demands bright and talented individuals who have the ability to innovate and excel,? the Prime Minister said.