Honourable Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Fiji’s Prime Minister and Minister for i-Taukei Affairs, Sugar Industry and Foreign Affairs delivering the keynote address at the official opening of the 2018 USP Open Day at the Laucala Campus.
The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) 2018 Open Day was officially opened by Honourable Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Fiji’s Prime Minister and Minister for i-Taukei Affairs, Sugar Industry and Foreign Affairs, at the Laucala Campus on 27 July 2018.
Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of USP welcomed distinguished guests; secondary school students, their principals and teachers; parents and guardians; sponsors; and the media to the event. Professor Chandra particularly extended a special welcome to the Hon Prime Minister and acknowledged him for making the time amidst his busy schedule.
He stated that the Prime Minister’s (PM) presence is yet another example of the support of the Fijian government for USP and recognition of the role the University plays in the development of Fiji and its other member countries.
“As we celebrate five decades of achievement, we welcome you all to our beautiful campuses, and invite you to learn about why we are so proud of this unique University that has propelled so many Fijians and Pacific Islanders to successful careers and great impact nationally, regionally and internationally,” Professor Chandra said.
He noted that USP’s member Governments’ support, with Fiji being the largest contributor, has entrusted the University to offer students the best possible education for a successful future.
According to Professor Chandra, USP has achieved 27 accreditations and 15 recognitions for its programmes and it expects to obtain many more accreditations as this remains a major priority for the University.
“The most important recent validation of our quality is the fact that USP has now been accredited by the American accrediting agency, WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), valid for six years. This accreditation is different from the accreditation of particular programmes as it is the accreditation of USP as a whole, and with this, our programmes will be recognised in US,” he said.
With regard to the use of technology in education, Professor Chandra said that serving students and ensuring high quality student success is at the core of USP’s mission and the University is recognised internationally as a pioneer in the use of ICT for education.
Students watch a performance by the Oceania Dance Theatre during the 2018 Open Day official opening.
In his keynote address, the Prime Minister said he was delighted to be able to speak directly to so many young Fijians, especially those prospective students who are getting their first glimpse into what could very well be the next stage of their education at USP.
“I am always quite keen to make the time to be with you all here at Open Day. I have very fond memories from being here back in 2016, where I met many young Fijians who are now students at this institution. So, I am very glad to be here this morning with all of you, especially in a year that USP celebrates 50 years of educating Fijians and citizens throughout the Pacific,” he remarked.
Higher educational institutions, including USP, he said, are hubs of exchange, ideas and new ways of thinking which is a fundamental part of our democratic system.
“Here, I am sure you will find more than a few people who have no problem disagreeing with some of my Government’s decisions. That is okay, because that is what a healthy democracy is all about,” he stated.
“USP was the first regional university in the Pacific and we recognise the impact this institution has had on the Pacific over the last 50 years. And we hope this will continue for the next 50 years,” Hon. PM Bainimarama noted.
Fiji, he said, is currently hosting the Climate Action Pacific Partnership Conference in Suva at the moment, which is a pillar of Fiji’s Presidency of the COP23.
“Leaders from around the Pacific are here to take part in a “Pacific Talanoa”, our regional contribution to the global Talanoa Dialogue that was launched as part of our COP23 Presidency.
“I know that means a great deal here at USP, as that same spirit of Pacific cooperation forms the very core of your institution’s own educational mission,” he said.
The Prime Minister said Fiji introduced the Pacific-wide concept of talanoa on the global stage as a new way to drive the implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
According to the Prime Minister, for the first time in Fiji’s history, over one billion dollars has been dedicated to the education sector for 2018-2019. This he noted, is the single biggest allocation of any Government initiative, and the first time any sector in Fiji has received a billion-dollar allocation.
“That is a reflection of my long-standing belief that education is the most vital investment that any leader can make –– not only in his or her people, but for the very future of the country they serve,” he remarked.
He highlighted the significant increase in the number of National Toppers Scholarships provided by Government, with an additional 340 full time scholarships - bringing the total from 630 up to 970.
He said in line with their commitment to ensuring inclusivity of students with special needs, Government is also offering 20 full time dedicated scholarships under the Scholarship Scheme for Students with Special Needs.
“Government has also dramatically increased funding in the Tertiary Education Loans Scheme, or TELS, budget by 30 per cent, to cater for the growing number of TELS students who want to take advantage of the TELS programme. We have also doubled the parental income eligibility threshold, ensuring that many more students have access to Government funding,” he noted.
The Prime Minister advised students that as they enter the next stage of their education, he hoped they would take advantage of all the opportunity available.
“I expect you will work hard, that you will build on that progress we have already made, that you will go on to find jobs and create jobs in our growing economy, and that you will continue Fiji’s unprecedented momentum forward,” he added.
Approximately 10,000 students were present at USP’s main Laucala Campus, 2000 at the Lautoka Campus and 1000 at the Labasa Campus.
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