Prime Minister Honourable Voreqe Bainimarama delivers his keynote address during the opening of USP Open Day 2016.
Fiji’s Prime Minister and Minister for i-Taukei Affairs and Sugar Industry, Honourable Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama officially opened The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Open Day 2016 at the main Laucala campus in Suva on 29 July 2016.
Thousands of secondary school students turned up at Laucala to find out for themselves the various programmes and courses offered by the three Faculties and their respective schools and witness the entertainment by USP students, participate in competitions.
In his keynote address, Honourable Bainimarama said the Open Day is a powerful reminder of the importance of our education revolution in empowering our young people and giving Fiji and the region the knowledge base on which to build a more prosperous, inclusive future.
“To all our prospective students: you are being given the opportunity to study at a university that for 48 years, has served the Pacific with distinction and is increasingly seen as the region’s think tank,” he advised.
“(Sixteen (16)) of its programmes so far have received international accreditation - the stamp of global approval. USP is at the cutting edge of a range of research areas of vital importance to the Pacific such as climate change, renewable energy and green growth economies. So for any person, to be educated here is a privilege,” he noted.
Honourable Bainimarama urged students to be passionate about the learning process but also enjoy university life – the sports and other activities.
USP he said, is an important symbol of our regional leadership and our commitment, through education, to improving the lives of every Pacific Islander.
“And I want to use this occasion to re-dedicate ourselves to that role. And to continue to help strengthen the USP, expand its programmes, and cement its position at the centre of regional life, as well as in the intellectual life of our own nation,” he stated.
Honourable Bainimarama reaffirmed that his Government’s proudest achievement has been to extend the benefits of education to every Fijian young person, and especially access to higher learning.
He said his Government’s free education, scholarships and tertiary loans have transformed the prospects of even the most disadvantaged young person.
And as announced in the 2016-2017 Budget, thirty (30) more scholarships will be available under the National Toppers Scholarship Scheme to ensure that six-hundred and thirty (630) of the best and brightest students in our country are able to access tertiary education in selected priority areas, under the Government’s scholarship scheme.
This he said, is his Government’s investment in the human capital of our country.
Honourable Bainimarama announced that the Government is giving all Fijians access to tertiary education through the Tertiary Education Loans Scheme (TELS) initiative.
“Our technical colleges and universities including USP, are valued partners with Government in providing Fijian young people with a level of access to higher learning that is unprecedented in our history,” he noted.
He told students that he hoped their imaginations would be fired by what is possible if they work hard to fulfil their dreams.
“For any Fijian, there is more opportunity now than at any time in our history. With the Government’s assistance, you have been given a better chance of getting a tertiary education than any previous generation,” he said.
He also urged students to think about not only what this means for them personally, but how they can use this education for the greater good to contribute personally to building a beloved Fiji.
Honourable Bainimarama also used the opportunity to caution students on the use of social media saying it can be a powerful force for good, in keeping people connected and for the exchange of information and ideas.
In welcoming the Prime Minister to the University, USP Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Rajesh Chandra said it is always a great pleasure to have Hon Bainimarama “amongst us as your presence represents your Government’s firm commitment to making higher education accessible to all young people”.
Professor Rajesh Chandra said the University is fully responding to the call by Fiji and our other member countries for more skills training and pathway programmes that allow presently excluded students to enter higher education.
Students who were part of the opening ceremony during the USP Open Day 2016.
“The other big advantage our graduates have is that they are very employable. Last year, 66 per cent of our graduates were in full time employment 4 months after their graduation, only 2 percent less than the figure for Australian graduates. If we combine full time and part time work, then 80 percent of our graduate were employed,” he further stated.
He also acknowledged Government for giving special attention to university students getting work placements with tax breaks for employers for attachments and part-time work in the National Budget for 2016 – 2017.
Professor Chandra also noted that USP has very close relationships with industry and professional bodies, and many of our programmes have industrial and professional placement as part of the degree requirements.
He said these work placements and holiday jobs all mean that our graduates can find work easily and many are offered jobs even before they complete their degrees.
Professor Chandra added that USP produces graduates who are extremely well-informed or experts in their fields of study and have a good base knowledge of the Pacific Islands, demonstrate excellent cross-cultural and leadership skills, and are highly proficient in the use of ICT and the English language.
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