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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Put interest of students first (Post-Courier 29 Jan. 2014)

(Any disruption at UNITECH at the start of the year would therefore the responsibility of the Minister of HERST, David Arore. AS)

Welcome to Post-Courier: Editorial

IT IS unfortunate that the crisis which came close to shutting Papua New Guinea’s second largest educational institution – the University of Technology – remains unresolved and could potentially disrupt the 2014 academic year.

Last year the controversy over the academic credentials of the Unitech Vice Chancellor Dr Albert Schram came close to forcing the closure of the institution after the former university council alleged that he falsified his qualifications. The struggle between the council and the VC eventually led to court proceedings and then his sacking and later deportation.


The clash was an unnecessary course of events which could have been settled without the need to resort to strong arm tactics. Consequently, the students got involved and protested the decision of the council. The matter eventually came under the radar of the National Executive Council, compelling an intervention by the Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology and later an inquiry headed by retired National and Supreme Court judge Mark Sevua.

Recently tertiary institutions’ two most powerful bodies in the National Academic Staff Association and National Staff Association came out publicly appealing for the return and reinstatement of the deported academic. In fact the university council headed by Sir Nagora Bogan decided to reinstate Dr Schram after agreeing that he had no case to answer and was unfairly dismissed – they based their recommendations on the report from the inquiry.

The National Academic Staff Association and National Staff Association have asked the Government and the Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology to re-hire Dr Schram. With the 2014 academic year just over a month away from starting, we see the rationale in the call by the two associations. The interest of the student population – for which Unitech and other tertiary institutions were established for in the first place – should be paramount. The students’ welfare and interest should be the top priority for the Government. Hence the Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology should come out and tell the Unitech student body and administration where he stands on this particular matter. And what are his timelines in terms of dealing with this matter and putting it to bed?

Hundreds of parents throughout the country are pinning their hopes on a trouble-free start to the 2014 academic year at the Unitech. The Government and the Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology need to give them the assurance and confidence that the welfare and interest of their children is paramount.

If the Unitech council and the National Academic Staff Association and National Staff Association want Dr Schram to return then their views should be given immediate consideration and recommendations acted upon. After all they liaise directly with the student body and are in a better position to know what is best for their pupils – not Port Moresby-based bureaucrats or politicians who can be out of touch with the situation on the ground. Any disruption to the start of the academic year for Unitech over this matter will be injustice to the students who are keen to get on with their studies. It is a new year so let us do the right thing for a change and put the interest and welfare of our students first.

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