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[Media Release - Joint MFAI & MoE]

Cook Islands Government confirm COVID-19 financial support to tertiary students


The Cook Islands Government have confirmed some financial assistance for Cook Islands tertiary students studying in New Zealand impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The financial assistance was confirmed by Cabinet at their meeting last week following insight into challenges being faced by students impacted by COVID-19 measures through a submission tabled by Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI).


The Cook Islands High Commission welfare outreach to students, including liaison with Cook Islands Students Association representatives, availed key insights into challenges being faced by students amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Challenges detailed by students in the submission included financial hardship caused by reduced income support from families; additional costs brought about by remote study requirements due to lockdown and social distancing measures since March; some closure of university facilities limiting student access to University support mechanisms; and some reduction in familial support caused by lockdown measures and border closures preventing students return home to the Cook Islands.

“Government is pleased to be able to avail some financial support to our tertiary students so that they can continue to be engaged in their education until such a time that tertiary education providers can put in place alternative ways of delivering teaching and learning,” said Minister of Education Mac Mokoroa. “Just as we as a Government and society have supported the primary and secondary education of these students, so too must we in these challenging COVID-19 times avail support, as we’re able, so they can continue to completion of their tertiary studies and thereafter contribute to the development of our country.”

Students the world over have been confronted with various challenges brought about by global COVID-19 measures. For tertiary students, the transition of lectures and tutorials delivery to online platforms coupled with lockdown measures preventing movement has imposed additional financial costs some had been unprepared for.


Leading Government’s engagement with tertiary students in New Zealand, Cook Islands High Commissioner Elizabeth Wright-Koteka said, “We’re grateful amidst the competing national priorities brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, our Government have supported allocation of some financial assistance to alleviate financial hardship being faced by our students which will enable payment for remote-study supplies, transport costs, or simply providing additional support to the families that they are staying with.”

MFAI, through the High Commission in Wellington will oversee the process for eligible tertiary students accessing Cook Islands Government financial support. Eligibility criteria includes that the student is ordinarily resident in the Cook Islands; currently studying at a tertiary institution in New Zealand and currently still within New Zealand with immediate family currently residing in the Cook Islands. Queries including applications are to be submitted to the Cook Islands High Commission in Wellington by emailing firstsec@cookhicom.org.nz


Through the Cook Islands Ministry of Education (MoE), Cook Islands scholarship recipients have continued to be supported through the various scholarship support schemes available to first year tertiary students and to full scholars. “Government’s financial support to our scholarship students has not changed despite COVID-19”, said Education Secretary Danielle Cochrane. “We’re encouraged by the determination of all students, private and scholars, who remain committed to and engaged in tertiary level learning despite lectures being delivered virtually and many tutorials and lab opportunities being affected. We are also aware that many of our students are balancing part-time employment and community commitments, so we hope this financial support will help ease burdens and enable studies to get back on track.”

For scholarship recipients, the level of assistance they may receive from this COVID-19 financial support will be conditional on what scholarship scheme the students are presently on. Confirmation and payment of financial support for eligible scholars will be managed by the MoE – queries can be directed to MoE’s Scholarships Advisor on email scholarships@education.gov.ck


COVID-19 disruption to tertiary student’s learnings has highlighted the need for elevated two-way communications between government and tertiary students. “In addition to assistance availed by our Government, as New Zealand citizens, our students have available to them various support avenues availed by the New Zealand Government and we encourage our students to proactively pursue those including through their Cook Islands students associations where they exist,” said MFAI Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann. “Our Government, via the High Commission are available to support amplify advocacy with New Zealand tertiary education providers and there is an extensive Cook Islands diaspora community which if called upon, is also prepared to assist. The Ta’okota’ianga annual gathering of Cook Islands tertiary students in New Zealand is but one of a number of avenues government will look to strengthen engagement with our students in the months ahead via our High Commission in Wellington.”


Some 50 students have already registered with the High Commission and application forms will be sent to those who have indicated a need for financial assistance. Completed application forms need to be submitted to the High Commission by the 9th June 2020.


Queries regarding this media release, including eligibility and applications process for financial assistance can be directed to the High Commission at firstsec@cookhicom.org.nz The High Commission’s facebook page is another useful platform for student engagement with the Cook Islands Government, see https://www.facebook.com/thecookislandsinnewzealand/

Photos:

1: Ta’okota’ianga, Otago University, August 2019 - High Commissioner Elizabeth Wright Koteka at foreground with Cook Islands Tertiary students at last year’s Ta’okotai’anga hosted by the Cook Islands Students Association of the University of Otago;

2: Minister of Education Mac Mokoroa

2: Ta’okota’ianga, Otago University, August 2019 – Ta’okotai’anga activities Cook Islands tertiary students

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