17 year old students challenge an “unfair NZ scholarship eligibility criteria”

Four 17-year old year 13 students of Niue High School are calling on the leaders of both the Niue and the NZ governments to address what they say is an unfair criteria for scholarship selection. They told BCN news that they were disqualified because of their age but their 18 year old classmates got through.

The four students Kyra Poihega, Lani Head, Jorja Tuhipa and Dessyo Pavihi-Sioneholo are some of Niue High school’s top students. They have all received high results in their NCEA levels 1 and 2 but their applications for the NZ scholarships were unsuccessful.

All four applications were declined at the first stage by a letter saying their applications were unsuccessful citing three reasons.

“We are sorry to tell you that your application was unsuccessful. There are a number of reasons for applications not progressing, including that they:

  • do not meet our eligibility criteria
  • do not strongly match our selection preferences, or
  • are not strongly aligned with the sectors for your country.”

Kyra Poihega said that she and her family were very disappointed when she received her letter declining her application for a scholarship to study engineering.

“It’s disappointing because we’ve gone through seven years of education, the same as everyone else in our year level but because of our age, we were not eligible for the scholarship”.

Lani Head who applied for bachelor of health science says that it’s important that they are all given equal chances at a scholarship because they worked hard for it.

“We spend a lot of time and effort into our applications, and not to get a positive response back was disappointing”.

BCN news understand that a key criteria of eligibility for a NZ scholarship is that the applicant must be 18 by the 1st of January 2022 or in the year of the scholarship.

Jorja Tuhipa who is also BCN intern in the holidays said that they are in this predicament because of the decisions made while they were in Primary school, to promote them. In their year, there were about nine students promoted because they were born in the first half of 2004.

She’s calling on the Niue government to review this practice. “For the sake of our students and for our future generations to review this eligibility criteria because there are heaps of students coming up and they will all go through the same thing.” Jorja applied to study law.

These students are calling for the NZ and Niue governments to review the eligibility age of 18 because it is not fair that they are being penalised for a decision made by the teachers several years ago.

The only boy in the group Dessyo Pavihi-Sioneholo who applied to study renewable energy engineering says that it should not be based on age, but on academic ability.

“I’d like the criteria for eligibility to change. Not base it on age but base it on academic study and the highest level of academic study like NCEA level 3. That should be the qualification not age because at the end of the day, you are not going there (university) because your older. You are going there to learn.”

Since this news broke last night on BCN news and on Midday news today, parents have reached out saying that their children and relatives also went through the same issue.

A mother who wished to remain anonymous said that her daughter was declined last year because of the age criteria and she feels for her other daughter who was also promoted at primary school and if this selection criteria is not changed, she too will not be eligible because of her age.

These students may still reapply next year but they will have to take a break and find something to do on Niue so they can re-apply next year. If they choose to leave and go on a student loan, they will not be eligible because one of the criteria is that the applicant must be living in Niue for two years prior to applying.

The office of the New Zealand High Commission at Tapeu have contacted that they will be issuing a statement in due course. BCN news have also reached out to the Director of Education and the Minister of Education to speak on this issue.

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