by Serah Aupong – EM TV News, Port Moresby
The Governing Council of the University of Goroka has been suspended.
Minister for Higher Education, Malakai Tabar said an interim Council is expected to be in place within 2 days.
The first order of business for the interim governing council will be to suspend the current Vice Chancellor and appoint an interim VC for the University.
This announcement follows a visit by the Minister to the University of Goroka over the weekend.
The Minister for Higher Education said he found the visit disappointing on two fronts. Firstly, the university’s governing council was not able to resolve this issue for over three weeks. Secondly, he said the students were not able to provide a satisfactory reason for the protest.
Minister Tabar said he met with various stakeholders including the Universtiy’s top management and a group of around 300 students. However, he was not able to meet with the executives of the student’s representative council because they were under police custody.
The minister said he was asked to intervene to have the students released from police custody but after his meetings with the provincial police commander and the EHP governor, he was told that will not be possible as it is a civil matter. It is understood the students have engaged a lawyer to pursue the matter in court as a police brutality case.
The minister said they reached the decision to suspend the governing council because the student unrest has not been resolved within a reasonable amount of time and the situation on the ground can deteriorate further.
He said under the Education Act, the Minister for Higher Education has the powers to intervene in such circumstances in order to “minimise disruption to students, the university staff and the wider community.”
“Ministerial intervention is not taken likely and I regret that I have to set this precedent,” he said of this decision.
He also said an independent mediator will be appointed to resolve issues between the current governing council and the “small group of students leading the student protests”
Classes at the university were supposed to start yesterday as the start of the second semester.
The minister said if classes do not resume by the start of next week, the second semester is likely to be suspended.
“If classes are suspended, current students will have to reapply to the University for next year’s Enrollment and their government scholarships will not be there until then,” Minister Tabar said.