A very good morning to you all. Un grand bonjour à vous tous.
Allow me, at the outset, to greet you and extend to you all very warm welcome to Port-Vila, Republic of Vanuatu, for those of you who have travelled in all the way from the various Capital cities of the Pacific to attend this 88th USP Council Meeting, graciously co-funded by the Vanuatu Government and the University of the South Pacific. This regional meeting continues to raise the profiles of Vanuatu and its status as true partner in the Pacific Region. We are indeed grateful as a country to host the pacific family here in Port Vila.
Allow me also to express my deep appreciation n the behalf of the Government and the people of Vanuatu for choosing Port Vila and Vanuatu as yours hosts of this important regional meeting. I extend my personal gratitude to meeting organisers for having me officiate at the opening formalities on behalf of the children, students, the people and the Government of Vanuatu.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As small islands states we have relatively small populations ranging from 1500 in Tokelau to over 6 million in Papua New Guinea. The People that compose our population, however, our biggest and precious resource and that is why education is so important to us for our development.
The size of our countries, their geographical location and spread of our countries we do not have the economies of scale and access to global market to be competitive in trade. Therefore, we need to invest in our people. Education must remain at the centre of our social, cultural and economic development.
As we now look to the Education 2030 agenda, we need to consider what we have learnt and focus on the quality and relevance to meet the needs of Pacific 21st Century young learners.
We in the Pacific recognise quality across all areas of Education. Therefore, concerted efforts in curriculum, teacher development and learning environment needs to be urgently and addressed continuously. This is to ensure education can be inclusive, of high quality and relevant to our Pacific students while they live and interact in a global society.
Relevancy in terms of curriculum content, relevancy in the learning and teaching methodologies used and relevancy of the environment in which learning take place, all need to be flexible to respond to an ever-changing global environment.
For over five decade, the USP has stood as a beacon of timeless learning, and for these many years, it has been the source of our regions advancement.
In every meeting you convene, it should acknowledge the harmony that this university brings between many cultures and traditions spread over our region and beyond. We must acknowledge the uniqueness of a university placed in a region of extraordinary physical, social nd economic diversity.
Today, we gather to formally open the 88th USP Council Meeting and as members representing member country governments, academic staff, students, community and business leaders, we remind ourselves of the primary responsibility entrusted to us by our people. We can look at the goals set in the previous meeting, and seek to fnd ways that match new development.
The development challenges of our countries vary greatly and thus calling for training that are relevant and of quality. As developing economies, our developing economies our island nationsare vulnerable to number of international trend therefore relevant education holds key to meeting the challenges of time. With the university's 50th anniversary celebrated last year, we having already established a sound reputation for itself as an excellent, innovative and progressive centre of learning, we will continue to demand the highest standard of learning and teaching from the institution.
I note that the University has served the region well and contributed to our developments over the years. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Professor Rajesh Chandra the Vice-Chanellor for his professional dedication and commitment to uplifting the university to its current status. There is still much to do but I am convinced that the new Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal AHluwalia will continue to add to that contribution and elevate the university to new levels. I thank you for your leadership in this regard. Thank you also to all academic, administration and ancillary staff at the main campuses and regional sub-continuing to ensure that the USP offers the best services.
The two days meeting offers you a platform and the opportunity to discuss a range of important issues that affect the USP. Your deliberation on general future strategic planning governance and accountable processes will provide key to directions the University takes.
Distinguished Members, allow me to share a bit of Vanuatu experience.
The Government is committed to the new agenda 2030 for sustainable Development Goals or SDGs. Back in 2016, I launched the country's 2030 National Sustainable Development Plan, labelled nationally as " the people's Plan 2030" to embrace the overwhelming support and ownership of the plan by all the institutions and the people of Vanuatu. Deeply rooted and founded on three(3) key pillars carefully selected nationwide for their relevance to the local context - the Social, Environment and Economics Pillars -, the Vanuatu People's Plan 2030" guides the national development agenda of the country for the next 11 years to 2030.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Let me present to you and our prestigious audience an overview of the Vanuatu Education sector. First, the assurance that Vanuatu is entirely committed toward SDG4and all its targets. To confirm this national commitment, the government is currently allocating 23% of its Naational Budgets to support Education development in Vanuatu. The Vanuatu Education Sector Strategy 2017-2018 ensures that there is equitable and inclusive access to a quality education and training system starting from Early Childhood Care and Education to enhance early childhood development, all the way up to tertiary and Higher Education, and provide in local vernaculars at early stages then English and French: Vanuatu's official languages of instruction.
We are mainstreaming ECCE into our education system and providing grants to ECCE children. We continue to provide school grants to primary school students and also expand grants to secondary schools to ensue all school-aged children complete basic education, or twelve solid years of compulsory education up to junior secondary level.
At senior secondary, post-secondary and university, students learning is supported by government subsidy and a significant scholarship programme funded by the government to the order of US§ 6 million annually. This is further supported by our generous development partners.
At this juncture, I wanted to cease this opportunity, to urge USP Council to consider upgrading USP courses at the regional campuses from degree to masters levels. Vanuatu want to see more courses in different disciples thought at the Emalus Campus at the level of degree and masters.
We also want to see reform in the managements structure of the University of the South Pacific with greater consideration given to employ national of member countries as a way of building regional capacity at the higher levels.
Your regional duty mission to Port Vila coincide with one of Vanuatu's historical development in the education sector. As you are no doubt aware, Vanuatu is working currently towards the development of its higher education and research sector. The Government trough the Ministry of Education and training is now taking necessary steps to ensure that key education and training actors and stakeholders are aligning themselves towards the prospective establishment of a " National Bilingual University of Vanuatu".
Vanuatu continue to value the ongoing generous assistance of the University of the South Pacific in the education sector, and Government will certainly continue to collaborate and seek the expertise of the University of the South Pacific to guide us in the further emancipation of our education sector, particularly the establishment of " Nation Bilingual University Of Vanuatu". We want to see more of this constructive collaboration and partnership as well as greater willingness for USP to work closely with local tertiary institutions in Vanuatu.
It is my expectation, therefore, that through this meeting our expected outcomes are met to integrate them in the relevant policy Framework but also to be able to create permanent working partnership network to uplift our respective education sector including our regional University.
As I conclude, I wish to once again thank the university of the South Pacific for partnership with us and for co-funding the organization and delivery of this meeting. This demonstrates, once again, that we are all deeply concerned about the Children of the Pacific and their Future Livelihood. Our presence here in Port Vila confirms that we put priority for the good of children because the students forms the basis of our discussions, recommendation, approval and finally its implementation. That is why our governments place high priority in education.
Finally, ladies and Gentlemen, i wish you all fruitful deliberations. But aside from your very busy schedule, please also take time to move around and meet the people of Vanuatu. I am sure they will greet you with the same natural smile over and over again when they cross you outside the confines of this hotel or in any places you move around.
I now have the honour and privilege to declare the 88th USP Council Meeting officially open.
Thank you all for the courtesy your kind attention. Je vous remercie.