From L-R: Professor Richard Coll, Deputy Vice-Chancellor LTSS, USP; His Excellency Mr Teneti Maamau, President of Kiribati; and Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President, USP.
The newly elected President of Kiribati His Excellency Mr Taneti Maamau paid a courtesy visit to Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of The University of the South Pacific (USP) at the Laucala Campus in Suva on 4 October, 2016.
In welcoming HE Maamau, Professor Chandra congratulated him on his new appointment and assured that the University fully supported Kiribati and its development.
“Your Excellency, this is the first time we welcome you in your new role as President,” he noted.
HE Maamau acknowledged the Vice-Chancellor saying that he returned to USP after almost thirty (30) years and was excited to see that the campus had grown rapidly.
“I am very proud and pleased to see this level of progress under your good leadership and your capable staff,” HE Maamau mentioned.
He stated that all the Governments in the region are serious about education and he has always regarded USP as an institution of knowledge and wisdom as well as a custodian for Pacific people.
“Fiji is like a second home to us and particularly USP,” he said.
Professor Chandra lauded the vision of the new Kiribati Development Plan 2016-2019 ‘Towards a better educated, healthier, more prosperous nation with a higher quality of life’.
“The vision you have outlined for your country resonates very well with USP as an educational institution. We support your vision and the development of Kiribati,” he noted.
Professor Chandra stated that USP regards Kiribati as a very important member because of the increasing number of students, after Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu,” he said.
He said the importance of the relationship also reflected on the completion of the new USP campus on Kiribati last year.
The construction of the new 1,764 square metre building, with an additional 882 square metres on the vacant ground floor commenced in late 2014 and opened in November 2015 , and was funded through an Asian Development Bank (ADB) soft loan of US$3.6m.
The three-storey building comprises four teaching rooms, lecture theatre, library, book shop, video-conference room, computer lab, science lab, an Atoll Research Centre, College of Foundation Studies (CFS) and Student Administrative Services (SAS) offices, Flexible Learning room and staff offices in the top two floors.
HE Maamau thanked Professor Chandra for his remarks and good wishes saying that the focus of the new administration is education and they have high ambitions leading to excellence.
He confirmed that they are also trying to encourage their students to strive for higher education especially towards PhDs.
“Kiribati is so small in terms of the labour market and opportunities thus the need to find ways to upgrade the skills and capacities of our people so they can work elsewhere,” the President said.
He mentioned that he was Chief Guest at the recent USP Open Day at the Kiribati Campus, his first official engagement, where he expressed his Government’s support for higher education “as this is one way in which we can make Kiribati more competitive and prosperous in the future.”
While HE Maamau acknowledged USP for investing in a new campus, he said it is not just about the building “but the quality of the programmes and courses on offer”.
Other issues discussed included the need for qualified fisheries training for Kiribati particularly for the outer islands, set up of a vocational institute and an Atoll Research Centre, all of which needed USP’s support.
Professor Chandra said the Kiribati Government’s approach to give education the highest priority, is the right one.
He also commended the Kiribati Government’s emphasis on excellence, “not just on education but the quality of education which will bring out the best and create competitiveness to allow your graduates to move to different labour markets.”
“USP will support your Government fully on this,” he said.
Professor Chandra also emphasised that with all the interest, goodwill and resources around the plight of atolls, the notion of an Atoll Research Centre should be explored further, adding that there is space in the new Kiribati Campus for such a possibility.
HE Maamau is the fifth president of Kiribati since the country became independent in 1979.
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