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But PNG government determined to save semester

PAPUA NEW GUINEA – Closing down the 2016 academic year for the state universities is not an option for Papua New Guinea. The government says its agenda is to immediately salvage the semester.

Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology Minister Malakai Tabar said he is committed to ensuring the conclusion of the 2016 academic calendar.

Secretary David Kavanamur said the department was concerned with the outcome of the students’ boycotts at the universities for more than a month.

However, there is no sign of students returning to the various campuses to resume normal studies any time soon.

A student leader at the University of Papua New Guinea said students chose not to attend classes this week out of respect for those hurt by police during last week’s unrest.

“The lecture rooms are open for us to go to school and also the staff are on campus, but most of us don’t want to go to classes while our friends that took bullets are suffering in the hospital and recovering.”

Student Representative Council president Kenneth Rapa said the decision to continue the boycott was made by individual students and not the SRC.

The University of Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby is reviewing the record of student attendance.

Acting Chancellor Dr Nicholas Mann said that the university council was expecting a report on the number of students resuming classes and those continuing the boycott.

“We will assess the report and decide on what we can do. If a good number wanted to continue, then it would be good. But, if a small number wanted to continue, then we have to reassess how viable it will be to continue the semester in regards to resources.”

He said there was a court order restraining the Student Representative Council and the general student body from harassing students who wanted to attend classes, barricading or blocking the lecture room doors, or conducting any forum at the campus.

“Students who wanted to disrupt classes will be in contempt of court and we appeal to those students who want to go to school to go ahead,” he said.

Mann said the campus was quiet and the situation calm.

“On Tuesday, only a handful of students showing their sympathy to their fellow students admitted at the hospital painted themselves with mud. But there were no major disruptions,” he said.

The University of Goroka has suspended classes for two weeks.

Chancellor Joseph Sukwianomb said the decision by the university senate had nothing to do with the fight among students from the highlands regions on Tuesday.

The fight broke out between students from one factions of students from different highlands regions with some wanting to continue the boycotting of classes while others wanted to return to classes.

A female student said leaving the campus felt like coming out of a war zone.

The girl was amongst students attending the university of Goroka who were transported off the campus in buses hired by Morobe Governor Kelly Naru.

The student said she is happy that she is safe back in Lae with her family.

She said her safety and the safety of her female colleagues was at great risk and their male counterparts were no different.

The students said they felt their lives were at risk so they requested Morobe assistance from Morobe Governor Kelly Naru help with transportation costs to Lae.

Governor Naru said the money used to meet the student’s travel expenses was from Morobe Province Disaster Relief Funds.

He described the students’ situation as a man-made disaster after the fight between the Highlands students left many injured and hospitalised.

The students will travel home to their respective districts and provinces in the coming days.

And in Lae, students from two rival groups sought forgiveness as they hugged each other in a reconciliation ceremony this week.

One student was injured when the two groups clashed at the University of Technology Taraka campus in Lae on Monday.

Vice-Chancellor Dr Albert Schram said the students resolved that no retaliation or vengeance would occur and there was to be no intimidation of each other.

He also said bush knives they have in their possession must be surrendered.

“The disagreement is about the tactics of the student movement. One group believed the boycott has run its course, and that there are other effective means to advance the cause of the students,” he said.

“Another group believed the boycott should continue.”

- PNC sources