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Political agenda

Tevita Vuibau
Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A TERTIARY student's dreams of securing a better future for his family are dashed after his scholarship award was terminated for what he claims is his involvement with a political movement.

The student, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a volunteer for Roshika Deo's Be the Change campaign and was informed of his termination through a letter from the Tertiary Scholarship and Loans Board.

The letter, signed by TSLB co-ordinator Tavenisa Tofinga, makes no mention of an option to appeal the termination and goes on to say he and his guarantors are now liable to reimburse the government for his fees.

The letter, also addressed to the USP vice chancellor Professor Rajesh Chandra, mentions his political affiliation and says the scholarship is dependent on maintaining an appropriate sense of order to allow students to develop in an environment safe and free of disruption.

"It has come to our attention that you have been associating yourself in political agendas without taking into consideration your obligation with the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs (MTA) which is to pursue the BCommerce (Hotel Management) and as per clause five of your award letter, you are required to abide by your institution's rules and regulations," the letter reads.

It goes on to say the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs has zero tolerance for behaviour contravening those aspects - whether done on or off campus before informing him of the termination of his award.

"Therefore MTA reserves the right to terminate your scholarship if a report is received from your institute or from a law enforcement agency concerning a breach of regulation."

TSLB chairman Dixon Seeto declined to comment on the matter saying all applicants' information was confidential while USP vice-chancellor Professor Rajesh Chandra referred all questions on the matter to the TSLB board.

Emails sent to Ministry of iTaukei Affairs permanent secretary Savenaca Kaunisela yesterday remained unanswered.

"I come from a single-parent family, and to have my scholarship terminated on the basis that I was simply exercising my right as guaranteed under the 2013 Constitution and taking responsibility for my country and its people, is simply absurd, an intimidating act," the second-year student said.

"My mum is deeply devastated with the news of my scholarship termination.

"This education was the only hope I had to secure my good future and with this very demeaning development, it really has shaken me mentally and psychologically."

The student maintains he is innocent of any wrongdoing saying he only practised the constitutional rights afforded to him and has called for a full explanation from the TSLB.

"My actions have in no way contravened my bond agreement and I am not aware of any reports from off-campus that will put my scholarship at risk, nor of any report from the university, since the volunteer work is carried out on weekends," he said.

"As a youth, I have the right to make political choices, as guaranteed under the Constitution, and I feel for exercising this right, one is bound for punishment, in the form of termination of a scholarship."

He explained his GPA was above the minimum required to retain the scholarship and there was no mention from either the university or TSLB of rules against political involvement.

Meanwhile, the termination has caused uproar from the Be the Change campaign and its leader Roshika Deo also claims he lost his scholarship for "associating" himself "in political agendas".

She called for the TSLB to be objective and reinstate the scholarship of the student.


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