Photo | edwiseinternational

COVID-19 has deterred, hindered or in rare circumstances, brought some businesses to a grinding halt, this however, is not the case with the National Scholarship Department as it opened applications this month.

Chairman of the National Scholarship Office John Avock Mahit said that despite the challenges that comes with the pandemic, he is still encouraging students to apply, “This month is very important for us and the students, the applications are now open from the 1st of September to the 30th and we are encouraging students to apply.”

Mr. Mahit said last Thursday 1,200 students had already applied, and he is expecting roughly 3,000 applicants by the end of the month.

“I was just trying to check how the applications were going, what interest we were getting with this and the number as of last Thursday we received over 1,200 applications, given that it isn’t the middle of the month and we are still encouraging students to apply ….

“I’m advising all my staff that it’s good to encourage students to apply because by the end of the month when we have all the data then that’s what we will be presenting to the government to see the data, the interest there and see what we can come up with to help the students.”

The Chairman of the National Scholarship Office said the country cannot afford to let the educational sector, especially potential scholarship recipients to be hindered by the border lockdown and the investment into human resources is vital.

“My emphasis is, during the lockdown, while we are talking about the productive sector let us be mindful that it is important that this time to invest in our human resource. With the data it will be good for us to analyse and present to the government, if we do a concept paper to the government and say this is what we have, if we have to invest in a good amount of funds into these scholarships, the turnout will be in the next 3-5years. Then you will have an educated workforce which is available if you have the ban lifted.”

For now, nothing is written in stone, as students are encouraged to apply, the names of the selected few will be sent to the government – “Last year 127 got selected to be awarded and with that ratio and what we are getting now, it’s a big difference,” after that it’s unchartered waters due to the pandemic.

“The application process starts here, and the government is hoping that by the end of the year borders should be open, we just playing time.”

As priority is given to Year 13 student graduates, these students could be the first batch debuting their tertiary programme completely online.

“With COVID when you apply here, the environment as it is, courses will be available online and we want to pursue that rather than staying in the traditional way, COVID has changed a lot of things and it’s about time we start,” Mr. Mahit said.

In a bid to get the technological ball rolling on online learning, Mr. Mahit added that he is determined to raise the matter in the upcoming board meeting.

“What we have to accept is that online learning and classes will be something big for the future especially for Vanuatu.”

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