The University students shortlisted for the Vanuatu Government funded scholarship scheme have become victims in what appears to be an ad hoc decision making process by the National Scholarship Office.
In December 2018, the National Scholarship Office announced a short list which contained 71 names. However the short list disclosed last year was rejected by the National Scholarship and Training Board (NSTB), only 10 out of all candidates were awarded scholarships, leaving 61 disappointed candidates. 17 new names on the final list were not even included in the short list.
Most of the students who were rejected have already committed to the scholarship and expressed distrust at the Government’s scholarship program.
They were frustrated that they were rejected but were not informed until the last minute. Some of them were employed but had resigned from their jobs to pursue their studies.
Thrilled at the opportunity of further studies, most of them had already registered at the USP Emalus Campus, completed medical clearance and created bank accounts.
The students whose names were withdrawn have demanded an explanation from the NSTB.
They said they have participated in the interview and counselling by officers as part of the selection process and have been told of the government’s merit-based scholarship award and the need to align their courses with the country’s priority human resource needs.
When asked about this, the Director General of the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET), Bergmans Iati, as the Chairman of the NSTB, said: “the selection in the short list was not actually done by the scholarship board.
“The short list was brought to the board by an officer at the National Scholarship Office.
“The decision to withdraw the names was taken by the board, which is responsible for the selection and appointment of candidates.
“The new names in the final list have also applied and were selected by province.
“To the candidates who have made complaints, being shortlisted does not automatically guarantee you an award. There is a selection process to pass which the final choice will be made”.
DG Iati said the board will consider whether the shortlist candidates would be supported with tuition fee, particularly those that have registered in more than one course at the USP Emalus Campus.
The number of scholarships offer also depend on the availability of public funds, he added.
The government wants the candidates to take courses at institutions in the country but the option is not better for some undertaking high level courses which local institutions cannot offer.
DG Iati was asked for comment after a meeting between the frustrated shortlist candidates and NSTB, following complaints received by the Leader of Opposition, Ishmael Kalsakau.