PACIFIC ISLES STRUGGLE WITH COST OF SCHOOLS

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SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 9) – Micronesian islands are struggling with lack of funding for education.

Besides the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Yap, Pohnpei and Guam are also trying to find more funds for their education systems.

Okada Techitong, vice speaker of Palau’s House of Delegates, said their US$4 million education budget for the entire year is not enough to sustain their public high school and 10 elementary schools.

"Politics is all over the Pacific and Palau is not an exemption —education remains the priority of every politician," he told Variety on Wednesday.

He said his dream is to provide students in Palau with quality education.

"It is our wish in the legislature to have a higher budget for education so schools can hire the best qualified teachers," he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Yap Sen. Stan Kensof.

"Money is always a big problem when it comes to education. In Yap, we have a very limited US$3 million education budget for our 4,000 students in public schools," he told Variety.

He said to provide the best education to students, the Yap legislature is trying to find more ways to tap available scholarship grants for deserving students.

"We need to find more scholarship grants and assistance to help them because we cannot afford to do so with our present budget," he said.

In Pohnpei, Sens. Nixon B. Soram and Edgar Lick Aneth said their 15 public schools have to share an annual budget of US$700,000.

Lack of funding for the schools is "a major concern," they said.

"Despite our small education budget…we’re doing our best to provide our students the best services possible for their learning," they said, adding that it is also their priority to provide more funding for schools in the near future.

In the Northern Marianas, the Public School System has been receiving US$37.2 million from the local government for its 11,300 plus students in 20 public schools.

With the opening of classes in August, public school students are expected to face the same old problems which include dilapidated buildings, overcrowding and lack of air-conditioning units.

June 9, 2006

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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