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By Betty Arikapu and Phil Yombon

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (October 5, 1999 – The National/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---University authorities here remained firm in their decision to raise fees by 25 percent next year as students at the Waigani campus boycotted classes yesterday to protest the decision, the National reports.

University of Papua New Guinea Chancellor Dame Rose Kekedo said yesterday the decision to raise the fees will not be rescinded and students should approach the issue in a more constructive manner.

She also said the decision to increase the fees from 15 to 25 percent was made last year and reaffirmed by the UPNG Council in June.

It was not a one-man decision, she said, stressing that more than 18 UPNG council members, including a students' representative, agreed to the increase in June.

She said since the cost of university education was getting higher each year, the University Council will not repeal the decision.

The striking students yesterday presented a one-page petition to the university administration, demanding that the council withdraw the 25 percent increase by 12:00 noon today.

The students have vowed to continue their indefinite boycott of classes and disrupt university businesses until the fee increase is withdrawn.

Chairman of the students' grouping, UPNG Crisis Committee, Pilyo Maeokakali, yesterday claimed the entire student body was behind him in fight against the fee increase.

Mr. Maeokakali said given the adverse economic situation in the country, students and their parents would have a hard time meeting the fee increases, and the UPNG Council should withdraw the increase.

He said the fee increase would affect students who are under the National Tertiary Scholarship (Natschol) program.

He said Natschol had been continuously scaled down in the last few years, including the termination of the students' pocket-allowance and imposition of a 10 percent payment by the students.

Next year, the total fees payable by students would be 25 percent, he said.

But in a letter to Students Representative Council President Benny Tanda, Acting Vice-Chancellor Dr. Cecillia Nembou yesterday said Natschol students would not pay K750 as claimed by the students but only K487 next year as a result of the increase.

(NOTE: Kina 2.88184 = US$ 1.00 on October 5, 1999)

Dr. Nembou said that this year students sponsored under Natschol paid K389.50 while private sponsored students paid the full K3,000 to live on campus.

She said that the total fees payable in 1999 were K3000, including tuition plus board and lodging, and K90 for services. Natschol students paid K390 if they wished to reside on campus.

The total fees payable in 2000 will be K3,750, including tuition plus board and lodging fees and K112.50 for services, and Natschol students will pay K487.50 if they wished to reside on campus.

The letter said that the difference required to be paid in 2000 would be K97.50.

Students picketed lecture halls early yesterday, preventing lecturers and students from going about their normal business.

Dormitories were locked up as early as 8:00 a.m. and the main bus stops were manned by protesters to ensure that all students remained on campus.

Male and female student leaders from various groups all agreed to take part in the boycott of classes to get the authorities to abolish the increase.

Mr. Maeokakali said he was pleased to see that the students were united on the issue, and warned that they would not back down.

"When student power stands as a united force there is no one that will stop us," he said.

In her letter, Dr. Nembou also requested student leaders to ensure that the rights of each individual staff and student, and the rights of the University to pursue its activities are respected so that staff and students can go about their regular business without harassment and disruption.

She said she was concerned at reports that a number of students had on Friday harassed staff and disrupted lectures.

Title -- 2391 EDUCATION: UPNG firm on fee increase Date -- 5 October 1999 Byline -- Betty Arikapu and Phil Yombon Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- The National, 5/10/99 Copyright -- The National Status – Unabridged

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