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By Priestley Habru Pacific Journalism Online (USP)

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (February 5, 2001 - Solomon Star/Pasifik Nius)---Local government sponsored Solomon Islands students attending tertiary institutions in the country and overseas are still uncertain whether their airfares and tuition fees will be paid, allowing them to resume studies this year.

Those studying at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji are still awaiting confirmation from the Department of Education for airfares to be paid before lectures start on February 19.

As for tertiary institutions in Papua New Guinea, they want the students’ fees to be paid before they allow them to continue their studies.

The Solomon Star understands UPNG's Waigani Campus has already started lectures in some courses and a few Solomon Islands students have returned, but the majority of them remain at home.

As of Friday last week, air tickets for Solomon Islands government sponsored students who should have traveled to Suva was not forthcoming and UPNG students are still not assured of payment of their tuition fees.

Students for the Professional Diploma in Legal Practice in the Institute of Justice and Applied Legal Studies in Fiji plus USP first year intakes who should have traveled over the weekend are still at home since air tickets were not made available.

According to the Education Minister William Gigini, a memorandum of understanding was presented to Cabinet members last Thursday and a final decision is to come from them.

"If the government cannot secure funds then there will be about 900 scholarships that will be affected for both the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education and overseas institutions," Gigini said.

Students are anxious to find out if a decision has already been made by the Cabinet and whether the government has secured funds from local and overseas sources to help finance the students' airfares and tuition fees.

As for continuing local students funded under overseas' aid donors, their scholarships will not be affected, but they will not be offered new scholarships this year.

Meanwhile, students who completed their form seven arts and science foundation courses last year have just been given forms to apply for institutions they want to enter next year.

"With the current poor economy of the country, the government cannot afford to send us to overseas institutions this year, so we will have to wait until next year before we could be accepted to continue our studies," said James Billy, a science foundation student at the state-owned King George Sixth High School in Honiara.

Title -- 3190 EDUCATION: Solomons students hit by funds shortage Date -- 5 February 2001 Byline -- Priestley Habru Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- PN/Solomon Star, 5/2/1 Copyright -- PN/SS Status -- Unabridged

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