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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i


Samoa University Students Denied Exams Over Unpaid Fees
Opposition party says school is prioritizing money over education

By Unumoe Esera

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, Nov. 7, 2012) – The Parliamentary Opposition Party, Tautua Samoa has expressed concern for students attending the National University of Samoa (NUS) who have not been able to sit examinations underway this week due to outstanding school fees.

Last Friday was the due date for all outstanding fees before exams commenced on Monday this week.

"We ask that the NUS management consider the children. All their hard work for this year has gone to waste now that they have not been allowed to sit their exams," said Leader of the Tautua Party, Palusalue Faapo II.

He said the implications of this would mean there would be a lot of students next year trying to get an opportunity to enroll in previous courses as they have not sat the examinations this year and would have to repeat it.

"The decision that NUS has made means they prioritize money and not the children’s future. The whole purpose for having our own University is for our people to be able to afford to send their children to University as the University of the South Pacific and overseas universities have more expensive tuition fees," said Palusalue.

He said that NUS should give the students the chance to still sit exams but withhold their results until they have paid their outstanding school fees.

"This is a common practice in overseas educational institutions," he said.

According to the Tautua members research on the issue there is only a small percentage of students who do not pay their school fees every year but the majority pays it off in the end as they want to graduate.

"Parents should also make sure that this won’t happen again next year. It affects the children and they should keep in mind their love for their children and their future. I hope that the Government will give them an opportunity to sit the exams this year and not have to wait until next year," said Palusalue.

He also stated that not all families are the same and the nature of Samoan people is to always leave things until the last minute. "Some parents showed up on Sunday with the children’s school fees before the exams on Monday but they were turned away and their money was not accepted."

Various reports say there are some 500 students affected. This includes those who have paid their fees partially and others have not paid at all for this year.

"This is not a small number," said Palusalue.

The Deputy Leader of Tautua Aeau Peniamina added that the standard of living is so expensive and not every family is well off.

"NUS and the Government have been careless in handling this matter. This never happened in the past years because there were safety measures to prevent something like this from happening," he said.

He said the parents hopes have plummeted as their efforts to have their children educated all year long by supporting them every day by providing transport to school, lunch and encouragement for their studies has all gone down the drain.

"The number of unemployed youth and the crime rates will rise due to the decision made by NUS to exclude students from sitting exams. The decision made is relevant for private institutions but not a government institution such as NUS," said Aeau.

MP Papali’i Taeu Masepa’u also expressed his view as one of the parents from his constituency who has a daughter at NUS who was one of the students who was not able to sit the exams.

"Some parents showed up at NUS with their children’s school fees, why was their money not accepted by NUS? They came with the money and yet they were rejected," he asked.

He said that all the students course work for the past semesters has been discredited due to something insignificant such as unpaid fees.

Papali’i explained that someone from his district has a daughter who attends NUS and is enrolled in five subjects in the Commerce discipline and passed all her course work.

"She had paid WST$900 [US$381] of her fees for this year but only WST$400 [US$169] was outstanding. Her parents turned up to pay the remainder of her fees after the due date and before exam week but the money was not accepted. Her father is a farmer and earns a living from the plantation and has a few cattle. One of the cows was slaughtered and sold to get the money to pay the amount of WST$400.

"NUS should be flexible, if they have internal policies which do not allow the payment then they should consider changing it, this is not an overseas university it is a local university," he said.

Palusalue said parents were also at fault but this was due to most of them not having enough money to pay for their children’s tuition fees and relied upon relatives from overseas for money.

Aeau added that NUS and the Government should use their common sense in this matter to resolve it.

Papali’i added that the list for students who have outstanding fees was only put up during the NUS study week and the due date was on Friday the same week.

"There is not enough awareness for the parents to know when the school fees are due to be paid. NUS should put up advertisements on television, radio and newspaper at the beginning or the end of the semester but not the week right before exams so there is enough time for parents to make the payments," he said.

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