The Vanuatu National Provident Fund (VNPF) will be providing Vt500 million to the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) to support parents who are members of the fund in financing their children’s education, starting this year.

This is part of the first education scheme set up by VNPF. Under the scheme, loans will be offered to students but they are asked to provide a guarantor.

Members who want to pursue their education or pay for their children’s studies but are facing financial difficulties are eligible to apply for the scheme.

The Members Education Support Scheme (MESS) will meet student’s financial needs such as tuition fees, air fares and accommodation.

Students will repay the loan with an interest rate once they complete their studies and secure employment. They will automatically become members of the fund once they start working.

The scheme will initially focus on tertiary and vocational education courses before extending to Year 12 and 13 students. The criteria of the scheme will be developed by the Scholarship Board.

VNPF, through the Members Financial Services Limited (MFSL) will manage the scheme. The MoET will screen all applicants and recommends the eligible candidates for funding.

The General Manager (GM) of VNPF, Parmod Achary, put pen to paper with the Minister of Education Jean Pierre Nirua and the Director General (DG) of the MoET, Bergman Iati, in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to formalize the MoET and VNPF’s cooperation in implementing the scheme yesterday.

Minister Nirua said the education loan scheme will complement the government’s scholarship funding.

”The budget for scholarship which stands at over Vt800 million every year is not enough to meet the increasing demand of our young people wanting to go for higher studies.

”Last year, we requested a supplement budget for scholarship but both the Council of Ministers (COM) and the Ministerial Budget Committee advised us (MoET) that we can’t get that amount and we have to look for alternatives.

”The scheme is a window of new opportunities for the young people. It will replenish the government funds for scholarship and ensure that opportunities for higher education are not reduced,” he said.

VNPF GM Achary assured that the funds for the scheme are available and he will be recommending a 4% interest rate repayment to the VNPF Board.

”The funds for the scheme will go directly to the education institutions. These institutions will be approved by the MoET and gazetted.

”VNPF intends to support the government policy on education as it falls in line with its vision of its Strategic Plan 2018 to 2020: ‘Honestly serving our members throughout their lifetime and when needed’.

MESS is the first education scheme set up by VNPF. GM Achary said the fund is planning to introduce similar medical and funeral schemes soon. VNPF has over 35,000 registered members.