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By Vicky Lepou Wansolwara - Print edition (USP)

SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 9, 2001 – Wansolwara/Pasifik Nius)---The Samoan government and New Zealand aid donor officials are investigating a dramatic slump in academic performances by first-year Samoan university students, reports the USP journalism program newspaper Wansolwara.

Officials are guarded about the failure rate last semester, but Wansolwara understands it was an unprecedented more than 70 percent.

They have appealed to students in a meeting at the University of the South Pacific to make stronger efforts in the future.

Reasons cited for the failure rate included uncertainty in the wake of last year’s attempted coup in Fiji, too much socializing, and "homesickness."

"We're here mainly to remind students that they are primarily responsible for being in Fiji on behalf of the Samoan government," said Scholarships Committee Secretary Ono Fuatai.

"We've also talked to USP authorities, whose job it is to help students about why the results haven't been what we expected."

The controversial issue was discussed by a team of delegates from donors, including Ms. Fuatai, at a meeting with about 100 Samoan-sponsored students at USP last month.

Also present were AusAID scholarships officer Ivapene Seiuli, New Zealand second secretary Nikki Reid, and NZ Overseas Development Aid (NZODA) scholarships officer Sera Gagau.

"This is the first time that a NZ delegation has traveled over to specially talk to the students," said Seiuli.

She said that they were confident the students could do better.

However, there was a belief that students were not making enough use of university resources.

Problems faced by students include:

Nikki Reid said: "USP has its own challenges and it has not entirely recovered from the impact of the coup -- like a major loss of lecturers.

"It was a great disappointment and concern that the marks had dropped."

The Samoan government requested the New Zealand delegation to visit to remind students of their responsibilities.

Reid said that plans are under way to put students who failed papers on probation, or their scholarships would be terminated.

"Some students think that after three years without completing papers they can get an automatic extension, but it’s not so," said Gagau.

Samoan Students' Association president Niualuga Tavita said he also was disappointed.

"It's a sad feeling for me because parents will question our responsibility as elders," he said.

He said the issue would be discussed by the association.

A new strategy will include three kinds of letters to students, including a warning.

Reid told Wansolwara later that she hoped the new change would encourage students to do well.

Title -- 3412 EDUCATION: Samoa probes study slump Date -- 9 September 2001 Byline -- Vicky Lepou Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Wansolwara (PRINT EDITION), September 2001 Copyright -- USP Journalism Status -- Unabridged

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