Student end-year repatriation plans underway: PM

THE National Government has begun discussions on repatriation of our students in overseas training institutions as the end of the academic year looms.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in his nation-wide address today said the Ministry of Education and Human Resources and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade have been coordinating discussions on that matter.

“Priority for student repatriation would be for those that have completed their studies in semester 1 of 2020. The second priority would be the ongoing students who would be returning for holidays at the end of the year and those that have completed their studies,” the Prime Minister said.

Prime Minister Sogavare said to date; the Government has repatriated a total 755 students including those in Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Panama and Vanuatu. 

“Since the announcement of the pandemic by the World Health Organisation in March 2020, international travel had been affected. That has presented a challenge to execute timely repatriation of SIG-funded overseas students especially those who have completed their studies in the first semester of 2020,” he said.

The Prime Minister said the pandemic has not only interrupted student learning, but also seriously affected their safety, health and well-being.

Prime Minister Sogavare also revealed that due to the worsening situation of COVID-19 in the Philippines, the government has made the decision to repatriate our students there.

“Officials are now working on how best this can be done, to ensure that all our students are safe, that they are tested prior to their return so that we do not open ourselves to the possible risk of bringing COVID-19 into the country through our returning students,” he said.

The Prime Minister said dates for repatriation flights would depend on the completion of risk assessments, pre-departure testing protocols, and securing of agreement of the host countries to allow flights in and out of Philippines.