When three students enrolled on a higher education course in Fiji, they hoped it would improve their career chances.
Fiji has seen a dramatic development in tertiary education over the last decade, and education is seen as key to increasing the country’s competitiveness within the global economy. Yet this story from 2008 shows how booms like these can be exploited. After being mistreated for months by the school, the students started to suspect that they were being scammed.
The problems started during the course. Despite having paid tuition fees, students were not given any form of assistance or support from the school and were left alone to cope with their studies.
Things got worse after the course was completed. Several months after the termination of the course, the students had still not received any information about their results or graduation date.
Finally, they were informed that they had all failed. They had the option of re-taking the course at a different institution, but for this they would need to pay several hundred dollars more on top of the money they already paid for the course.
When we polled Fijians, 97 per cent said they would report an incident of suspected corruption. These students were no exception. Faced with what they felt was an institution abusing its power, they stood up and spoke out.
When they contacted our anti-corruption legal advice centre, we took the matter straight to the ministry of education, and quickly received a response from the higher education commission informing us that they would be discussing the case directly with school officials.
Seeing the students were not alone, the chair of the school took action. He confirmed the students could redo their final assessment free of charge, and provided them with several weeks of free tuition and assistance.
It might seem like a small case, but this is about more than just these three students. In a country where more than one third lives below the poverty line, extra payments like these shut out the poor from education– they must not be allowed to go unchallenged.