Vice-Chancellor's Speech for the USP Alafua campus Special Graduation Ceremony -  Office of the Vice-Chancellor



Vice-Chancellor's Speech for the USP Alafua campus Special Graduation Ceremony

Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President

1. Acknowledgements

  • Rev. Lemalu Livisitone Toelupe;
  • Member of the Council of Deputies Afioga Lemamea Ropati Mualia;
  • The Honourable Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, Afioga Fiame Naomi Mata’afa
  • The Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council of the University of the South Pacific, Mr. Winston Thompson;
  • Honorable Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament;
  • Excellencies and Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
  • The Deputy Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council, Ms. Aloma Johansson.
  • Head of the School of Agriculture and Food Technology and Director of IRETA, Associate Professor Mohammed Umar;
  • Former Vice-Chancellor of USP, Mr. Esekia Solofa;
  • Development Partners of the University;
  • Members of the Judiciary;
  • Members of the Clergy;
  • Vice-Chancellor and President, National University of Samoa, Professor Fui Le'apai Tu'ua 'Īlaoa Asofou So'o;
  • CEOs of Government Ministries, Corporations and Business houses;
  • Heads and representatives of other Educational Institutions;
  • Members of the Alafua Campus Advisory Committee;
  • Distinguished guests;
  • Honorable Graduates and their families and friends;
  • Colleagues and Members of Staff;
  • Ladies and Gentlemen.

2. Welcome and Congratulations Talofa Lava

Talofa Lava

It gives me great pleasure to join the Pro-Chancellor in warmly welcoming you all to the University of the South Pacific’s Special Alafua Campus Graduation. This is indeed special as the Parliamentarians are graduating today.

I extend a special welcome to the Member of the Council of Deputies, Afioga Lemamea Ropati Mualia and the Honourable Deputy Prime Minister.

I extend a very warm welcome to the graduands and their families, relatives and guardians.

3. Graduation Numbers

Today we have 18 students receiving certificates, which include 2 females and 16 males. All are graduating in the programme- Certificate in Law (Civil). All students are from Samoa and are Members of Parliament, Assistant Ministers or Ministers.

The Certificate in Law (Civil) is a vocational certificate program. It has been designed by the School of Law for persons who do not require degree-level knowledge of the law but who may be working in a legal field and wish to know more about specific areas of the law in which they work, and of the law in general. It comprises 8 courses. This programme was offered here at the special request of Samoa.

4. To the Graduates

To our honorable graduates, the journey to graduation is a wonderful one and today you will celebrate the achievements of your hard work.

You all have worked hard and persevered and you must remember to thank those who have supported you in your journey - your families, sponsors, lecturers and tutors without whose support, you would not have reached this far.

Let me say that it is a privilege for the University to have members of parliament take this programme that is designed to assist in their parliamentary work and to strengthen the functioning of parliaments in the Pacific.

I should also say that it was a very proud moment for all of us connected with USP to see so many of our alumni march with pride on Tuesday when the Hon. PM launched the “Samoa’s moment to shine” as part of USP’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

USP has graduated almost 2000 Samoans since its establishment and they have gone to make very significant contributions to the development of Samoa. Today’s graduates join this large and proud family of USP alumni.

5. Alafua Campus

Ladies and Gentlemen, - Alafua Campus (or USP Samoa) comprises the campus and Savaii Centre. I will highlight some of the more significant achievements of the Alafua Campus this year:

Law

In addition to the Certificate in Law, USP also offers the LLB programme here in online mode and many people have done their full LLB online. We have also been offering the Professional Diploma in Legal Practice (PDLP) for 20 years, and 89 Samoans have completed it. There are 6 more currently enrolled. Since 2006, the University has offered a part-time Professional Diploma in Legal Drafting (PDLD) to lawyers wishing to train in this area. The PDLD has been completed by 43 Samoans. There are 7 Samoans who are currently enrolled.

STAP

The Science Teachers Accelerated Programme, or STAP, is an initiative from USP in partnership with regional governments to upgrade the qualification of Science Teachers to a Bachelor of Science degree. USP is very grateful to the Government of Samoa for facilitating the first ever STAP in the region. The Government has fully supported the implementation of the new science model and provided scholarships to 60 teachers teaching science in various schools in Upolu and Savai’i. This first ever STAP commenced in June 2014 and saw 51 teachers (86.4% of the cohort) graduate with BSc degree in November 2016. This cohort- based model fosters greater engagement between the students and they work well together to obtain better results in their courses. It is also a win-win situation for the government, which saves a lot of expenses that would have been incurred if the teachers were send offshore for studies.

The success of the first STAP has prompted the Government of Samoa to provide a further 60 scholarships to a second cohort of science teachers who started their programme in January 2017. There are currently 56 teachers in the STAP II cohort with expected graduation in 2019.

I must add that the successes of STAP in Samoa has not gone unnoticed, as we now have similar in-country science programme running successfully in Tonga since 2017, and we will also begin offering the programme in Vanuatu this July, and in Solomon Islands in Jan 2019. Our sincere appreciation to the Honourable Prime Minister, Honourable Minister of Education, and senior government officials for making STAP noticeable and successful in the region and beyond.

School of Agriculture and Food Technology (SAFT)

SAFT plays a key role especially in ensuring food security and nutrition. At the newly established food technology lab at SAFT, there are ongoing experiments in food production using locally grown ingredients from our very own backyards. The result is that since 2017, fifty new products were introduced, all from Samoa’s natural ingredients and indigenous crops. The lab also boasts products that are FIRSTS in the entire world such as the papaya ice cream and many other products from different root crops, vegetables and fruits. These include flour, powder, jams, juice, cookies, polvoron candy, pickles, moringa and others. In addition, all SAFT’s 4 plant protection laboratories including the Pest Museum were recently renovated; and there are plans to convert some labs into a cohesive Pest Clinic. This Clinic will be another FIRST in Samoa and will serve as the place where students can learn disease and pest diagnosis, research on possible management methods and practical applications of Integrated Pest Management. Importantly, the Clinic will also serve as the place where stakeholders, especially farmers, can bring their samples for diagnosis and treatment. This approach has been practiced in other countries and will make research and university resources more accessible and relevant to our students and farmers. Another activity at the Laboratory is the establishment of Mushroom Production facility using grass cut from the regular lawn maintenance of the University. This is a new initiative. Mushroom is a good protein-substitute for human diets.

An important facet of the work of SAFT is its community work in the form of training local farmers through MNRE’s project of Strengthening Multi-Sectoral Management of Critical Landscapes of Samoa (SMSMCL), under the auspices of the United Nations. This is a Community Based Training for farmers at village and district levels as well as Training of Trainers. This community work has so far covered many areas of Upolu and Savaii in 2017 and 2018.

IRETA

The IRETA farm of crops and livestock currently has five poultry houses occupied by approximately 5624 layers and 5363 growers in the farm. Egg production increased significantly from May 2018 and is expected to peak in December. Likewise, crop production is improving but more needs to be done to utilize all land available for cropping. Papaya and many vegetables are being grown now and this activity provides ideal practical training opportunities for students. In April 2018, a very successful Symposium on Improving Root and Tuber Crops in the Pacific Region was held at the Tanoa International Hotel Nadi, organised conjointly by IRETA, SAFT, and ISTRC-PC and attended by researchers, government officials, private sector representatives and SAFT Lecturers.

USP Savaii Centre

Offering higher learning programmes to the people of Savaii, the Centre, based at the MESC Salafai Library, continues to upgrade facilities and services to improve student learning. The university acknowledges the continuous support of the Ministry of Education Sports and Culture in formally granting additional space using the former Teachers Resource Centre this year.

IT

Very significant new investments continue to be made to our Alafua IT infrastructure to better support our students at the campus. The Lecture Capturing System was implemented to record lectures for students and make it available via Moodle, the USP's e-learning platform. Via the Lecture Capture System, students can access the lectures anytime providing the ability to go back and revisit the lesson again.

Since last year, Thirty-Seven new PCs for teaching and learning purposes have been installed. This includes 28 new PCs for staff.

The Alafua Campus server room has been upgraded with new Servers to enhance systems and services at the campus including storage for recorded lectures (lecture capture). Two new UPS were also installed and all servers are connected to the UPS so that servers are up and running 24/7. We are looking forward to be connected soon to the Tui Samoa submarine fiber that can provide a faster internet speed for the campus.

Since its inception in 2011, the Cisco Academy has been attracting many students who wanted to study CISCO to find jobs or look for promotions in the ICT and computer networking.

Significant Achievements

USP is in the last year of its current Strategic Plan and the University has already achieved about 81 percent of what it set out to achieve. When compared with what other universities achieve, this is exceptionally high level of achievement despite the fact that USP is funded at about half the level of a typical Australian or New Zealand university. The new Strategic Plan for 2019 – 2024 is in the process of being developed and the first draft was presented to Council this week with the final draft to be considered and approved at the November Council. We will undertake extensive consultations with member countries and other stakeholders soon.

The University continues its quest to improve its quality and reputation through international accreditations of its programmes. We have now achieved a total number of 27 international accreditations and 14 international recognitions exceeding the SP KPIs.

In a very significant validation of our quality system, we had the Seeking Accreditation Visit from the American accrediting body for higher education, WASC Senior Commission on Universities and Colleges in April and the exit interview indicated that we met the standards required. We will be formally informed in July regarding the decision of the Commission.

Strategic Research Themes (SRTs)

In the past year, the University as a whole and Alafua have done research that has involved Samoa as a key partner and stakeholder. The areas of research are in literature, renewable energy, ICT-based learning and teaching, and climate change. In 2017 and this year, our researchers have published a number of quality publications.

6. 50th Anniversary Preparations

This year, 2018 – marks the 50th year since the establishment of The University of the South Pacific. To mark its Golden Jubilee, the University is holding events in all its member countries throughout the year.

This week is Samoa USP Campuses “moment to shine “a week. USP’s focus is on Samoa with special exhibition and activities planned right throughout the week as we celebrate the historic milestone in the development of USP and the development of our region.

We had a most successful launch of Samoa’s Moment to Shine component of USP’s 50th anniversary by the Honourable Prime Minister. The Pro Chancellor, and our staff were so pleased to hear the Hon. PM speak so warmly about the contributions that USP has made to Samoa’s development, and about the strength and warmth of our relationship. Thank you very much Hon. Prime Minister.

7. Thanks and Appreciation

The faith and goodwill of Samoa and the rest of the member Governments and our development partners bless the University. We gratefully acknowledge the show of strong support and confidence in the University.

I wish to thank our campus support services teams and the HOS SAFT/IRETA Director, Associate Professor Mohammed Umar and his team for these significant improvements to the Alafua Campus, the School of Agriculture and Food Technology and IRETA.

8. A final word

Ladies and gentlemen, a final word - to the graduates – Congratulations once again. You have made your families, your country, and all of us proud. We wish you life-long success.

Faafetai tele lava.






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