VANUATU SCHOOL LOSES LEASE, LOOKS FOR NEW HOME

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Property under Pango Esnar French School sold

By Thompson Marango PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Jan. 30, 2011) – In Vanuatu, the Ministry and Department of Education are currently looking for spaces in schools around Port Vila to accommodate over 200 students from the Pango Esnar French School after the land it is situated on was reportedly sold to an investor.

With just three weeks before school starts, the teachers and the School Committee were informed early this week that the land accommodating the school has allegedly been sold to an investor through the facilitation of a former Minister of Lands.

In a meeting with the teachers and the school committee, the Minister for Education reportedly said the issue of the school is in a critical situation so they have no other choice but to close the only well-established French school in the village.

Speaking to Daily Post yesterday, a concerned school teacher, Joseph Timatua said the news has sparked serious concerns among the students’ parents, the school committee and the teachers regarding the future of the students and school.

"Teachers’ postings have been announced and parents have been preparing and budgeting for their children ready for school to open soon," Timatua said.

Most of the students are from the village of Pango but students also come from surrounding areas of Port Vila as far as Teouma and Blacksands.

"Parents have just started enjoying free education but now the students’ parents from Pango will have to pay for their children’s bus fares to travel to other schools further away from the village, Timatua stressed. Many parents are unemployed and won’t be able to afford the cost of bus fares and it remains a question whether all students will be going back to school when school starts. Children have become victims as a result of leaders prioritizing other developments over education."

Meanwhile Daily Post was also informed that the sale of the land where the school is located was an agreement between a former Minister of Lands and an investor who then built a new facility intended for the school’s relocation.

But according to information from the teacher, the new facility does not meet the standard required by the Education Authorities and the area is reported to be on a swampy area, which is not suitable during wet seasons.

After the introduction of free education Acting Director of Education, Samuel Katipa said it won’t be an easy job finding spaces to squeeze in over 200 students.

Daily Post contacted the Advisor to the Minister of Education who said the issue is currently being handled by the State Law Office in an attempt to find any possible legal ways to solve the issue.

He refused to make further comments concerning the process in which the land was sold although the land may belong to the State and the properties on it owned by the Ministry of Education at the time when its was allegedly sold.

Attempts to get comments from the Lands Department were unsuccessful with the Director reportedly busy when his office was contacted.

The school was reportedly built in the colonial era and currently has 9 teachers and 7 permanent buildings one which was built during the Christmas holiday by students from a Korean University.

"This school has produced many resourceful people including current Speaker of Parliament, Maxime Carlot Korman and now they are closing it down in the name of development," said the frustrated teacher.

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