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By Phil-Peers Yombon

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 7, 1999 - The National)---The University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) will close down five of its centers in the country due to non-payment of grants by the respective provincial governments since last year.

The centers owe UPNG K 212,215.95.

They are Western Highlands K 70,337.54, East Sepik K 46,202.55, Southern Highlands K 42,146.94, Western K 33,976.73 and Enga K 19,552.19.

(NOTE: US$ 1.00 = K 2.08768 on January 8, 1999)

A senior UPNG official said yesterday the closure of the university centers would seriously affect the operations of UPNG's distance and continuing education network under the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education (IDCE) with the cessation of salaries for the staff in the provincial centers.

He said the closure of the university centers would also affect programs like matriculation studies, diploma in commerce, diploma in social administration and diploma in primary teaching - in-service.

"Teachers, nurses, policemen and other public servants pursuing distance studies to upgrade their qualifications or to advance their career will be affected in the five provinces," he said.

Acting UPNG Vice-Chancellor Professor Joseph Igo said all university centers operate under an agreement between the respective provincial governments and UPNG in which UPNG manages the centers and provides academic support while the provincial governments provide budgetary support.

Prof. Igo said due to the university's drastic budget cut this year, UPNG could not be lenient anymore and support salaries of the centers' staff, adding that it was a default on the side of the respective provincial governments, and UPNG could not condone it.

He said it was unfortunate that UPNG had to make the decision.

Acting director of the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education Samuel Haihuie said the university centers' staff and students would be unfortunate victims of the failure by provincial governments to commit funds.

Mr. Haihuie had written to the respective provincial administrators appealing for continued funding for the university centers to off-set last year's debts. However, no amicable response has been received from the university centers except for East Sepik University Center.

The East Sepik provincial government has paid K 30,000, leaving a balance of K 16,000.

There are about 15 university centers throughout the country.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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