First Semester At University of PNG Suspended Due To Protests

Students given 48 hours to vacate campus

BY Nellie Setepano

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, May 25, 2016) – The University of Papua New Guinea’s first semester for 2016 has been suspended indefinitely following the month-long student unrest over the Government’s running of the country.

The university council decided yesterday that the 4000-plus resident students at the Waigani and Taurama campuses have been given 48 hours to vacate the university and all amenities and services stop operations. The announcement comes three weeks before the semester break.

In Lae, the University of Technology vice-chancellor Albert Schram cautioned that suspending the academic year will be an “overreaction”.

At the University of Goroka students have boycotted classes this week to present their petition to the Prime Minister as well as mourn the death of their vice-chancellor John Kola.

[PIR editor's note: On May 24, 2016 RNZI reported that 'Protesting university students in Papua New Guinea say they will not back down from their calls for the prime minister to resign. ... This is despite Peter O'Neill saying a statement last night that he had no intention of doing so.']

The UPNG university council’s drastic action was announced yesterday by acting chancellor Dr Nicholas Mann following four weeks of student unrest on campus.

The suspension of the semester message came with lot of mixed reactions, booing and a few verbal abuses hurled at Dr Mann by students at the Waigani campus.

The council has also decided that the school of medicine and health sciences, considering the peculiarity of its academic programs, offers its academic program in a manner that is consistent within the controls of the suspension, and that the date of the resumption of the university academic programs will be the essence of a subsequent university council decision.

Dr Mann said the decision by the council is being made in the best interest of the university after the council deliberated yesterday in council special meeting on resolutions of the university’s academic senate committee, considered in the light of on-going boycott of classes.

“The council’s deliberations were based on the extreme urgency to afford all students their democratic and constitutional rights to attend classes and to achieve their primary goal for attending the University of Papua New Guinea - to gain degrees in their chosen academic programs and begin their careers in society, “Dr Mann told students.

Dr Mann said the council’s main concerns that were addressed were:

  • Ensuring that their decisions and interpretations were made in the interest of the role of the university in relation to the continuity of the various schools’ academic programs;
  • The final implication and consequences affecting the implementation of the university’s academic programs, should they be changed away from the semester two, 2016; and
  • Considerations that would accompany efforts to redeem academic programs, revise those programs that would be in need of  this, and the implications for the possible relaunching of the academic programs for semester one 2016, and semester two 2016 without compromising academic quality.

Dr Mann said a further consideration addressed the concerns of parents and sponsors with the potential loss of their children’s’ once in a life time opportunity to gain an academic qualification and become a meaningful member of the business community who can contribute to the ongoing development of the country.

This concern was reflected in the wider public perception that students handed their petition to the Prime Minister, through the Governor NCD Powes Parkop, and that it is time to resume their own career.

Dr Mann said the council was unified in their call for normalcy to return to the campus and for students to fully understand the impact of the rolling boycott on the non-delivery of lectures, tutorials, practicals and assignments on the semester one and two.

At a news conference later he said that no disciplinary actions will be taken for  students unruly behaviour but the council agreed that the council will deliberate on “patching the academic hole”. This will mean fixing the academic calendar for semester one into semester two. This is so that there are no losses.

PNG Post-Courier
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