Minister admits the government is concerned for the 31 school leavers as top students miss out on scholarships

The Minister of Education Hon. Sauni Tongatule says that the government is quite concerned about the cost of financing the career paths of the 31 school leavers from Niue High School this year. Most of these students will not be leaving for university next year. (Pic of Minister presenting prizes to the top three academic school leavers who were not eligible for NZ scholarships)

Minister Tongatule admitted the government’s concerns at the prize-giving ceremony of Niue High school last Friday, also taking the opportunity to ask the New Zealand government representative Deputy High Commissioner Nigel Ewels for scholarship opportunities for some of these students.

Hon. Sauni Tongatule also called on the business owners in the private sector to step up and help employ some of these school leavers because the government may not be able to carry the full cost of employing the students.

Unfortunately, only a few of these students will be attending university next year but the majority will be needing employment, to begin with.

Some of them are the four students who in July this year approached BCN news to raise their concerns at what they said was an unfair criterion for New Zealand scholarships. The four students told BCN news that they all received letters worded exactly the same declining their applications and were told they were not eligible for a scholarship because they are not yet 18 years old, the age required to be considered for a New Zealand government-funded scholarship.

Of these four students, three of them were the top academic students this year for Niue high school. The Dux recipient Kyra Poihega who wants to study engineering, the first runner up Alexine Head who wants to study health science, and the second runner up Dessyo Pavihi-Sioneholo who wants to study renewable energy engineering. The fourth student and their classmate is Jorja Tuhipa who wants to study law. It’s understood that most of them will be taking a gap year to reapply for the scholarships next year.

If the students decide to leave for university on their own for the first year, they will not be eligible to apply next year because one of the criteria is that the student must be in Niue at least two consecutive years prior to applying.

The Minister of Education on Friday called on the Public Service Commission to arrange a sit down with the New Zealand officials on the island to help find a way to accommodate these school leavers.

There are only two scholarship offers for Niue school leavers and they have to compete with adult students for about five scholarship spots to study in New Zealand or another five spots to study at regional universities like the University of the South Pacific as part of the AusAid funded scholarships.

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