Kiribati, University of the South Pacific and the Asian Development Bank partner to boost access to higher education

Bairiki, Tarawa, 17 July, 2014—The Government of Kiribati, the University of the South Pacific (USP) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) participated in a ground-breaking ceremony last Tuesday to officially mark the first step toward upgrading the USP’s Tarawa Campus, which will boost students’ access to higher education.

The President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, delivered the keynote speech at the ceremony. USP Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Rajesh Chandra also spoke at the event and assisted with breaking the ground to signal the beginning of the construction phase of the Higher Education in the Pacific Investment Program, financed by ADB through a loan to USP.

“It is indeed the shaping of a dream, a dream envisioning education at all levels being accessible to our people, particularly our young generation. Not only that but a dream envisioning the elevation of the quality of education to a higher level comparable to anywhere in the region and the world. The Kiribati-ADB-USP partnership will lead to higher education becoming more accessible for Kiribati students, helping them gain the education and skills needed to make a more valuable contribution to their nation’s future,” said Kiribati President Anote Tong at the event.

“This is the beginning of a long term partnership in the Pacific region, particularly developing human resources and promoting inclusive economic growth,” said USP Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Rajesh Chandra.

“The Higher Education in the Pacific Investment Program will provide Kiribati’s young, rapidly growing population with better access to quality education and training,” said ADB Pacific Department Director-General Xianbin Yao. “We are delighted to partner with USP in this initiative to help Kiribati address future employment challenges it may face.”

The program, funded by a $19 million loan package to USP comprises three separate components to be carried out over eight years. The first, amounting to $3.6 million, is guaranteed by the Government of Kiribati, and will support civil works and information and communications technology (ICT) connectivity in the Kiribati campus. This will include the construction of additional classrooms, an ICT studio, and student and administrative facilities at the new Kiribati campus.

Enrollment in higher education in the Pacific region remains low, with rates ranging from 10% in Fiji to less than 5% in most other Pacific island countries. There are some 3,000 Kiribati students enrolled at USP, and the number has been increasing, but lack of physical capacity and limited academic programs at the Kiribati campus have hindered opportunities for quality higher education.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2013, ADB assistance totaled $21.0 billion, including co-financing of $6.6 billion.