Nursing students – hundreds of them sponsored by the government through the Ministry of Health - were booted and deregistered from the National University of Samoa (N.U.S) earlier this week for unpaid fees.
The incident involved almost 300 Nursing students who turned up to the University on Monday only to find that they were not welcomed.
The Director General of the Ministry of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, told the Samoa Observer the incident was unfortunate.
“We did get verbal reports that nursing students had not been allowed to enter the N.U.S gates,” he said.
“However, we cannot comment on this as this is a decision from N.U.S. We have not yet received any formal notification from the N.U.S in this regard apart from hearsay.”
According to the Director General, the government through the Ministry of Health sponsors Nursing students at the N.U.S through payment of tuition fees and a monthly allowance.
“Currently the government sponsors 291 students at all levels of the nursing programme including 30 Foundation Nursing students,” Leausa said.
“We do not see this sponsorship arrangement with nursing students changing in the near future as there is a shortage of nurses not only in Samoa but worldwide.
“Regarding payment of tuition fees and allowances, the Ministry confirms that these usual payments will be made as soon as the usual financial processes have been made to clear payment.”
The deadline for the fees at N.U.S was last Friday. For that reason, when some Nursing students showed up on Monday thinking their tuition fees had been taken care of, they weren’t allowed to enter the gate.
The Vice Chancellor of the N.U.S, Professor Fui Asofou So’o, confirmed the incident.
“We have policies here at N.U.S,” said Professor Fui. “Since 2013, we have a policy where we deregister students if by Friday of the fifth week of school that they haven’t paid their tuition fees.
“These five weeks does not include the first two weeks of enrolment and orientation. So if by Friday of the fifth week and students still haven’t paid their fees, they will be de-registered.
“And once that happens, you can no longer be a student, until you can pay your school fees again.”
About the issue, he said: “Our School of Nursing and Health Science and the Assistant Chief Executive Officer of the M.O.H are the ones responsible for finalising everything for this matter.
“I was told that the Head of our School of Nursing and the A.C.E.O of the Ministry of Health have been contacting via email in relations to this.
“Usually when everything is okay, nothing will ever come up. However, we know things are not okay when a problem arises.”
Professor Fui said he first learned about the issue on Monday when people from the media approached him.
“I apologized to them because I didn’t have all the information with me. Obviously I was not aware of what was happening. I needed to look into the matter and see what went wrong before I can say anything.
“So I called a meeting on Tuesday with the School of Nursing and the Management Staff here at N.U.S to find out the details.
“I found out during that meeting that there have been emails going back and forth between our School of Nursing and the M.O.H.
“I was not aware of the problem or these emails so as the C.E.O of the M.O.H.
“I found out from that meeting that the official from the M.O.H who is in charge of this was aware of the issue and that the due date for fees was last week, and the last email that was sent from the M.O.H to our School of Nursing was at 5:30pm on Friday, which was also the day for deadlines of school fees.
“The email that was sent to us was to inform us on Friday that the M.O.H will send us the final list of all the sponsored students on Monday.
“Now I found out all about these on Tuesday during our meeting, and by that time, we still didn’t get a list from M.O.H as promised on Friday.”
As of yesterday, N.U.S still had not received the list from M.O.H.
But Professor Fui said he did an investigation and found out that N.U.S was at fault as well.
“I saw that during the emails, there was a complaint from M.O.H in regards to the list N.U.S sent to M.O.H. There were names on the list that weren’t supposed to be on the list.
“They advised N.U.S to look into the list again and have it reviewed before sending it again. Our School of Nursing made some errors in the list they sent to M.O.H.”
Professor Fui said as soon as he found out that N.U.S also made a mistake, he called another meeting with his staff.
During this meeting, Professor asked the School of Nursing to allow the nursing students back to the classrooms.
“Now the main reason for this is because N.U.S was at fault too. It was not the lack of communication, but because of their list.
“So we have allowed the students to attend classes again and give the M.O.H the chance to have their list ready by Friday (today).
“If the list doesn’t come to us by Friday, then we will de-register the students, and enforce the policy just like what we do for the other students.”
Professor Fui said as long as they don’t have the final list from M.O.H, they will never know who the sponsored students are.
“We have learned two things from that meeting and I have advised the people here that from now on, there will be changes to how things are done here.
“The first one is, the normal channel of communication we used to have will no longer be the same.
“The new channel will have to come through me and it will go straight to the C.E.O of the M.O.H.
“Obviously, he wasn’t aware of the issue like me. We didn’t know about this issue, but to avoid having problems such as this in the future, we will have to have a new process because we always get the blame whenever there are issues.
“The second change is that is these lists going across will be managed by our Student’s Administration.
It will no longer come from the School of Nursing. Our Staff at the Student’s Administration Office will handle the list as they have all the lists of students and their grades. They will then send me the list before sending it out to the M.O.H to look at.
“Those are the new arrangements for the future.”
Asked about why the students were not notified about the deregistration of their names, Professor Fui said the students should’ve followed up their sponsorship in the beginning of the school year.
“The policy with these scholarships is that if you were sponsored last year, you can’t come this year expecting to be sponsored again.
“I mean it all depends on the student’s academic performance. So the students should’ve followed up if they were on scholarship or not.
“Or they should’ve still paid their school fees, because once the sponsor finalise the list of sponsor students, they can get a refund and reimburse their money.”