The travel restrictions imposed due to COVID 19 had a huge impact on the studies of students on scholarships supported by the New Zealand and Australian governments.
All of the students studying in regional institutions in Fiji and Vanuatu were repatriated in March last year.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told BCN News in a statement that the repatriated students under NZ scholarships from regional universities are currently unable to return to their studies in Fiji or Vanuatu however they have been approved to continue their studies from Niue, using the University of the South Pacific’s online study platform from the Niue campus.
Meanwhile, Australia’s High Commissioner to Niue Susan Allen told BCN News today that they have offered the repatriated students three options. The students can either continue to defer their studies, study remotely from Niue or to return to Suva.
“We are well aware that none of these options are ideal at the moment. If they return to Suva, they have to do the quarantine that Fiji is requiring and their options for traveling back at the mid semester break are probably limited. We are saying that they should expect not to be able to travel back to Niue during the course of their study simply because we know that travel restrictions will still be in place”.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says that additional flexibility has provided more options for Niue scholarship students because they are New Zealand citizens.
MFAT are also working to have the two new scholarships from Niue to commence studies in New Zealand this year as a result of the selection process which took place last year. In cases where scholarship students are unable to commence studies in semester one this year, their studies will defer until semester two.
The Australian scholarship applications received last year were initially put on hold due to COVID 19 but High Commissioner Allen this morning confirmed that they have reactivated these applications and will be considering them soon. Successful applicants may be able to begin their studies in semester two, pending the lifting of travel restrictions.
Some of the NZ funded students who paid their own way to return to Niue for Christmas break returned to continue their studies on the flight last week.
MFAT says that they will continue to monitor the impacts of COVID 19 and associated restrictions on the scholarship program this year.
Australia’s High Commissioner says that this has been tough on everyone and her children are also going through the same thing. She encourages the students and applicants not to be disheartened by these setbacks “Don’t let this be something that makes you lose heart. The world will continue, we’ll pick up again, the pandemic will be over, travel restrictions will be over and study will be possible again”.
H.E Susan Allen says that they are hoping that things will return to some semblance of normality by the second semester or July this year but there are no guarantees because of the impacts of COVID 19.