For those whose names were called as recipients of government scholarships for 2016, the weekend would have been a chance to breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the congratulatory remarks from friends and families.
Close to 100 students will have their studying paid for by the governments of Australia, New Zealand and Samoa for at least a year, and with all going well, some years to follow. This number of scholarship students is only a fraction of the total opportunities offered to our country’s citizens.
It does not include many other scholarships offered by China, Japan and other donor countries. Nor does it take into account funding from U.N. organizations, banks and business organizations in our community.
This largesse should be viewed as a huge privilege for those who have reached the required standards to be able to further their education.
Samoa has always portrayed itself as a people who have placed a strong emphasis on education as a priority and a pathway.
In return, we have been blessed with a tremendous amount of goodwill from neighbouring countries and friends of Samoa who not only want to see us succeed, but also play a part in the achievements of individuals and those success stories.
On a Pacific journalists’ trip to China several years ago, what was often repeated by numerous government officials in Beijing, Shanghai and other main centres was that economic and academic success in Pacific countries, was beneficial to all surrounding countries, not just those who claim Pacific status.
This was offered up as a reason for the generous loans and willingness to help our government and people. That there were other less public reasons was unspoken but understood by most of the participants on the sponsored trip.
While some of our students who will now be preparing to leave home will have travelled before, for most, this will be the first time that they will be gone for such a length of time.
In New Zealand and Australia in particular, there will be the newness of it all; the changing seasons, the size of the country, cities and crowds and of course navigating the educational institutions, the transport system, the culture and life in general. Couple that with some homesickness, newly-found independence and throw in the excitement of a new life and a new year, and it is clear that there will be some who will fare better than others.
For a few of our students, they are simply too immature to handle everything that will be thrown at them. For others the pressure of the previous year to achieve what they have, may see a drop in the momentum of study that is required for the second year in a row. That is not to say that they are failures, it simply may be that they may need more time. In fact many students who have had disastrous initial years, have gone on to achieve the very success they were striving for.
So in wishing all our scholarship representatives the very best for the year ahead, the Prime Minister’s words of caution about choosing the right people to mix with are worth repeating.
So too, is a reminder that there are local and international partners behind them in their year of study, who are backing them.
And if they need any other incentive to make the most of this opportunity, perhaps a look at the statistics of youth unemployment in our country will be sufficient motivation to work that much harder.