Professor Rajesh Chandra
USP Vice Chancellor and President
Remarks at the 2106 Graduation
Talofa Lava. It gives me great pleasure to join the Pro Chancellor in warmly welcoming you all to the University of the South Pacific’s Alafua Campus Graduation for 2016.
I extend a special welcome to the Hon. Prime Minister and Ministers of the Samoan Government. I also extend a special welcome to our Chancellor, the Prime Minister of Cook Islands, Honourable Henry Puna and Mrs. Akaiti Puna. Hon. Chancellor, Sir, we realize your onerous commitments as Prime Minister and are very grateful that you have committed so much of your time to be here for this graduation and to later officiate at the Vanuatu graduation.
The graduation is of course for the graduates and I extend a very warm welcome to the graduands and their families, relatives and guardians.
1. Graduation Numbers
Today we have 135 students receiving certificates, diplomas and degrees. Fifty percent (50%) of those graduating today are women. 19% of all those graduating today will receive Postgraduate qualifications. A total of 11 students will be graduating with Master’s degree. Students graduating from non-regional countries are from Australia, Belize, Jamaica, Nigeria and Papua New Guinea. Students from thirteen countries are graduating today.
I wish to highlight two main features of this graduation. First, there has been a major increase this year in the total number of graduating students—from 111 last year to 135 this year. We are pleased with this increase and will want to maintain this increase in future years. Second, today we have 51 students graduating with BSc degrees through the Science Teachers Accelerated Programme (STAP).
STAP began in 2014 and is one of the best joint initiatives of the Government of Samoa and USP and shows what governments and USP can achieve if we work closely together. Sixty students were given scholarships by the Samoan government to complete their BSc to improve the quality of teaching and educational outcomes in Samoa. I wish to thank the Prime Minister of Samoa, Honourable Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, the former Minister of Education of Samoa, Hon. Magele Mauiliu Magele, and the Co-ordinator, Associate Professor Bibhya Sharma for their role in this outstanding initiative and its success.
This cohort-based, innovative and blended-learning programme that kept the teachers in Samoa and in their schools not only achieved a very high completion rate with 51 out of 60 graduating within two and half years, but the average grades were much better than in other modes of teaching—and better than that at the Laucala campus.
STAP is also a very cost-effective method of human resource development. Our staff have calculated that the adoption of the STAP model has saved about 2.2 million tala for the Government by not having to send them to Laucala (savings from airfares, accommodation and living expenses) and further 3.6 million tala by not having to employ replacement teachers since the STAP teachers remained in their schools and taught during their programme, giving total savings of 5.8 million tala.
I am glad that the University and the Government have agreed to start the second cohort of STAP.
2. To the Graduants
I often remind graduates that graduation is the end of one journey and the beginning of another. Your graduation today is a fantastic achievement of one of the best and most influential chapters in your life. Your journey at USP has been a journey of learning, inspiration, influences, and experiences that will powerfully shape your life.
The University has equipped you well for lifelong and outstanding success in life and work. How far you go depends on you—on how you use your knowledge and skills, on your ambition, discipline and ethics and your ability to work with others, The main point is that now you are out of your sheltered university life—you are the master of your own destiny and only you can make the difference between sailing through life and making a truly great contribution.
I am confident that each one of you has the potential to make a truly great contribution—to be exceptional. Believe in yourselves, dream big, and work hard on your ambitions.
You will face many hurdles in your life but always have the courage to continue, as you have done during your journey so far. As Winston Churchill has said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts”. You have that courage; use it.
You now join over 46, 000 USP alumni worldwide. I hope you maintain the network with your colleagues which you have established at the University. I encourage all of you graduating today to join the USP Alumni network and remain strongly engaged with your University.
3. Significant Achievements
The value of the certificates, diplomas and degrees you will receive today has been increasing steadily as the University continues to improve its quality and reputation through the international accreditations of its programmes. We now have a total number of 18 international accreditations and 4 recognitions.
The accreditation of the University’s programmes gives students more confidence knowing that their programmes are internationally recognized and comparable with similar programmes by other universities from around the world. Accredited programmes also improve graduate employability.
I wish to re-assure you that the qualifications you receive today is just as good as those in Australian, New Zealand and other universities—but better because it is more contextualized for the Pacific, connects you with future leaders, and our degrees cost much less.
The University continues to seek gaps in human capital in the region and respond to them. In response to the needs and requirements of our region, we will offer the following new programmes from 2017:
• Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship;
• Apprenticeship Programme for Cookery and Hospitality Programmes;
• Certificate IV in Fisheries Enforcement and Compliance in collaboration with Forum Fisheries Agency;
• Postgraduate Diploma in Arts (Applied Linguistics and English Language Teaching);
• Master of Arts (Applied Linguistics);
• Certificate III in Small Business Development and Management;
• Certificate III in Patisserie (Pastry and Baking);
• Postgraduate Diploma in Forensic Accounting and Fraud Investigation; and
• Diploma of Counselling (Level 5).
4. Alafua Campus
Ladies and Gentlemen, I will highlight some of the more significant achievements of the Alafua Campus this year:
In 2016 the University continued its investment in Alafua Campus by improving Fire Safety with an additional FJD$150,000 to continue phase 2 of the fire panel installation plan for the campus. Maintenance work this year also included the installation of new infrastructure and underground piping. Additional funding has been allocated for maintenance to improve overall infrastructure and buildings on the campus.
A number of improvements have also been made to classrooms this year. Two rooms were renovated and converted into a bigger classroom to accommodate the increasing number of students enrolled in SAFT and STAP.
The campus will also get a full wireless upgrade by the first semester of next year. Alafua Campus is one of the campuses that will have the Network Access Control System installed before the start of the first semester next year. We are planning to give mobile devices to all first year degree students to help them have better and faster access to study materials without waiting for computers at the labs. We also hope to get connected to the new submarine fibre cable between Fiji and Samoa which is planned to be completed by September 2017. This should transform the student internet experience. I wish to congratulate the Government of Samoa on its decisive action to procure marine fibre optic cable and thank it sincerely for being supportive of providing adequate broadband for the Alafua campus within a education/health social sector framework.
The School of Agriculture and Food Technology continues to progress well. This year the school has produced two manuscripts co-authored by Prof. Anabella B. Tulin and Assoc. Prof Mohammed Umar on soil conservation and land management in Samoa. These books will published in early 2017.
Four SAFT staff were involved in the Training of Trainers Workshops for the Strengthening Multi-Sectoral Management of Critical Landscape (SMSMCL) Project under the auspices of the Land Management Division of Samoa’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
SAFT has enjoyed significant increases in student numbers over the past 4 years. This trend is likely to continue as we are continually improving our degree course program, employing highly qualified staff and by improving facilities.
In a first in the history of SAFT, a student completed his PhD at Alafua and is now an Assistant Lecturer in the School. Two Bachelors students from SAFT received the FBE Deans Award of the First Year for their grades and GPA achieved in Semester 1 2016. Two Senior Lecturers of the School of Agriculture and Food Technology, Dr, Siaka Diarra and Dr. Jagdish Bhati received Research Excellence Awards, 2015 from the USP Research Office for their research on harnessing locally available raw materials for livestock feeding, and quantifying the role of minor sea products in sustaining livelihood systems of the coastal villages, respectively.
Improvements have been done in the farm infrastructure and assets to improve vocational practical training of agriculture students in order to enhance the employability of our graduates and at the same time increase production, reduce cost to make the farm more sustainable.
The installation of new cages for chicken layers was completed in April. There are around 15,000 birds in the Poultry unit now. From Jan-Nov, 2016, the IRETA Farm earned an estimated $724,780.50 from layers, pigs, poultry manure and eggs.
Collaboration with other institutions
Students from the National University of Samoa (NUS) visited the IRETA Farm (Livestock), Lab and the Crops Section on Friday, April 8, 2016.
SAFT continues its outreach, training and services programme in the private sector. The Samoa Farmers Association members visited the laboratory and the green house earlier this year, learning how to diagnose nutritional limitations to plant growth in sweet corn and sweet potato grown in highly weathered soils of Samoa. SAFT will be supporting the Crops Division, MAF, Government of Samoa by maintaining its tissue culture collection in the University laboratory while its current laboratory is demolished and replaced by a new and upgraded facility.
5. 50th Anniversary Preparations
The University will have its 50th Anniversary in 2018. The 50th Anniversary Steering Committee is being chaired by our Pro Chancellor. We plan to mark this milestone with significant events and legacies and I invite you all to be part of this exciting event in 2018 that will celebrate our achievements and regionality, and secure our future as a world-class university that our leaders, the Pacific people, and our partners can take genuine pride in.
I take this opportunity to invite all of you to be part of this historic milestone in the development of USP and the development of our region.
6. Thanks and Appreciation
I wish to thank the Campus Director, Mrs. Ruby Va’a and her team, the Head of SAFT and IRETA Director, Associate Professor Mohammed Umar and his team for these significant improvements to the Alafua Campus, the School of Agriculture and Food Technology and IRETA.
I would like to assure our member governments, including Samoa, that the University is progressing well, its reputation is increasing, and that it has strong foundations to move ahead towards excellence with the blessings of our many stakeholders.
7. A final word
Ladies and gentlemen, a final word to the graduands – Congratulations once again. Go out and do your best. I have every confidence that each and every one of you will excel in your life and make your families, your country, and all of us proud. I wish you all a blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year.