Gavoka on free education, TELS

SODELPA Leader Viliame Gavojka holding up their 2022-2023 manifesto budget estimates at a press conference at the Suvavou village hall, on Fri 23 Sept 20223. Picture: ELENA VUCUKULA

The Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) party believes removing the burden of student loans and providing free education up to first degree level is key to Fiji’s socioeconomic development.

Party leader Viliame Gavoka outlined this while launching SODELPA’s manifesto last Friday in Suva.

He said addressing education, health and indigenous issues were priority areas for SODELPA ahead of other policies.

“TELS (Tertiary Education Loans Scheme) we will forgive, all the debt our youth are carrying we will remove it. It’s a bookkeeping item and we will remove it from the books,” Mr Gavoka said.

SODELPA said its free tertiary policy would cost an estimated $200 million which will be sourced from government revenue by way of taxes, fines and fees.

It would mark an increase of $151 million from the current government’s education budget of $48 million.

The SODELPA budget allocation for tertiary institutions would result in an increased grant for all existing tertiary institutions, including three new institutions namely Technical College of Fiji, Service Pro and Tagitagi Sangam Technical College.

Apart from tertiary institutions the party also outlined plans to strengthen technical vocational educational and training (TVET) programs and harmonize the courses to Australia and New Zealand standards.

SODELPA also intends to improve teacher and student experience through the removal of short term employment contracts, empower management in religious-owned schools and strengthen engagement with unions for the improvement of working conditions for teachers.

The party said it would decentralise decision-making in schools by restoring the management of schools back to their owners and would establish an inclusive platform for consultation by convening an education forum in its first 100 days in office.

The party also planned to strengthen early childhood centres, review school nutritional needs and develop proper school and community libraries amongst other policies available for viewing on their website.

The total proposed budget allocation for the initiatives was $487 million compared with the current $489 million allocation in the FijiFirst Government’s 2022-2023 budget.

Mr Gavoka said the policies would create a well-educated and efficient society and boost investor confidence in the Fijian economy – creating employment opportunities and a strong economy.

He said SODELPA was putting out its policies to the public and was now ready to promote, campaign and defend it ahead of the 2022 polls.

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