The USP Emalus campus staged a successful ceremony of the handover of the China-funded Francophone facilities on Monday, 28 October 2013. Among the dignitaries at the handover ceremony were the Hon Moana Carcasses Kalosil, Prime Minister of Vanuatu; the Hon Bob Loughman, Minister for Education; Ralph Regenvanu, Minister for Lands; Dr Esther Williams, USP Deputy Vice Chancellor; His Excellency Xie Bohua, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Vanuatu; and Members of Parliament and members of the diplomatic corps. Senior government officials, staff and students of Emalus campus were also present.
This project originally commenced in 2009 with a feasibility study. A contract between the Government of the Republic of Vanuatu Ministry of Education and Dalian Zhucheng Construction Group Co Ltd was concluded in 1 September 2011. Construction commenced 15 April 2012 and was completed on 25 October 2013. This assistance from the Government of the People’s Republic of China is valued at approximately US$ 2.9 million. The construction and handover of these improvements marks a significant achievement of bilateral cooperation between China and Vanuatu. The occasion also opens a new chapter in higher education in Vanuatu, a country with both French- and English-speaking populations.
Emalus campus Group Manager Ruben Markward greeted the attendees and opened the ceremony. His Excellency Mr. Xie Bohua, the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, formally handed over the group of new buildings and building extensions on the USP Emalus campus. These improvements, which include a new language lab and several classrooms, increase the available floor space at Emalus campus to 11,913 m2—representing growth of 2,100 m2.
In his speech, the Chinese Ambassador thanked the construction workers whose efforts are reflected in the new facilities. In addition to the new buildings, the Chinese government has also supplied furniture and fixtures and provided for disability access throughout the campus. The Ambassador spoke warmly of the relationship between Vanuatu and China and expressed hope that this kind of “mutually beneficial cooperation” may continue.
The Hon Bob Loughman, Minister for Education, spoke next. He emphasized the importance of expanding tertiary education to French-language speakers in Vanuatu and in the Pacific region as a whole. The new buildings, which are dedicated to the development of French-language educational offerings, will “extend educational opportunities to Francophone students,” said the Minister. He also assured USP of government support, adding that the Vanuatu government will work with USP to expand the delivery of higher education at Emalus for ni-Vanuatu and regional students. He also thanked the Government of the Republic of China for its generous assistance.
The Prime Minister, Moana Carcasses Kalosil, echoed the Education Minister’s sentiments. The PM noted that China is now one of Vanuatu’s most generous development partners, and that “the occasion marks a gesture of generosity on the part of the Government of the People’s Republic of China”. He acknowledged that the Government of China is willing to listen to requests, understands Vanuatu’s circumstances and is eager render help where it is needed most.
On handing over the premises the PM explained that “Today the Government of Vanuatu will receive the facilities.… As beneficiary, our Government is also delighted to further hand over these to USP. This will be an additional support that Vanuatu provides to USP and future students of the region”. He welcomed the expanded educational options for Francophone students and added that the people of Vanuatu “have benefitted tremendously” as a result of the assistance and cooperation provided by the government of China. Hon PM Kalosil also affirmed the government’s commitment to USP, saying “The Government of Vanuatu values its association with USP”, and that it considers “USP to be a pillar and doorway in the higher education sector”. The PM stressed that it is his “Government’s request that with this increase in facilities, USP delivers a full program of courses in [the] French language”. He emphasized further that the “Government will continuously work with USP to ensure that courses are responsive to the needs of the Francophone workforce”.
USP Deputy Vice Chancellor Dr Esther Williams spoke on behalf of the University, thanking the government partners who made the expansion of Emalus campus possible. She provided the audience with a brief history of USP in Vanuatu, from its earliest days occupying one office in a government ministry to the impressive campus of today.
Dr Williams observed that The People’s Republic of China is a “growing development partner of the University of the South Pacific” and that it has consistently and “generously provided funding and technical assistance in the area of education”. Through the facilities provided, USP “will be able to expand its work in offering courses and programmes in French” and “attract French speaking students” to Emalus.
According to Dr Williams, “by 2012, after 43 years since the establishment of USP, an estimated 1,100 ni-Vanuatu have completed bachelor degrees and other qualifications from USP”. Student numbers in Vanuatu continue to grow. In 2011, the student headcount “was 2,726; in 2012 it was 2,866; in 2013 it is about 3,100”, said the Deputy Vice Chancellor. The DVC thanked the Government of Vanuatu for its support and confidence in USP and being an important part of the USP family, adding that the “sense of ownership and pride in USP, your own University is invaluable”. This campus expansion will ensure greater opportunities for Vanuatu students, so that they may attend university without “leaving home”.
At the conclusion of the speeches, the Prime Minister and Ambassador signed the paperwork formally transferring the new buildings. This handover, symbolized by a large key, took place to laughter and applause. The gathering concluded with a tour of the premises and refreshments.
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