Papuan students caught by Indonesian grants cutback plead for NZ help

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The West Papua students who had their tertiary scholarships terminated by the Indonesian government have turned to New Zealanders for help. Video: Tagata Pasifika

By Anauli Karima Fai’ai in Auckland

Papuan students are appealing for support in New Zealand after the Indonesian government terminated the autonomous West Papuan scholarships of 42 tertiary students across the country.

“We humbly ask Kiwis to support us in terms of financial support,” says masters degree student Laurens Ikinia.

“This is something that’s really worrying us.”

Public Interest Journalism Fund
PUBLIC INTEREST JOURNALISM FUND

Indonesia cut the scholarships in December, claiming that the students were either failing their studies or taking too long to finish their degrees.

Ikinia, one of the students affected, is trying to complete his master’s degree in communications at Auckland University of Technology.

“The claim that the government is using is baseless,” he told Tagata Pasifika.

“Some students are on their pathways to finish their programmes and, like myself, I’m just about to finish and this is my final month to complete the programme.”

Half close to completion
At least half of the students are close to completion and have thus defied Indonesia’s orders to be repatriated.

Now they have been left to fend for themselves.

“It’s really hard for us to purchase our grocery needs and also for us to pay for our rent so it’s really restraining us.”

Last week, affected students in Palmerston North approached Green MP Teanau Tuiono to help raise their concerns with the government.

“That’s deeply concerning that a student can get that far to completing their education qualification and get told that their funding’s cut and they’ve got to go home. That’s not cool,” Tuiono said.

The MP has already sent a letter to Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta requesting a scholarship fund, visa extensions and accommodation for the students.

“We totally support the cause to have refugees from Ukraine because it is an area under conflict, let’s see that for West Papua as well, which is also a region under conflict.”

Givealittle page
In the meantime, a givealittle page has been set up to help the students — many of whom are afraid to speak out.

Page creator and advocate Nik Naidu, who is originally from Fiji, says it is important for the wider Pacific community to get involved.

“You know we were always taught to listen and not just speak and not to ask for things, wait for things to be given to you but, even then, you decline it, you know.

“And so for us in our Pasifika culture, the important thing is to be aware of everybody’s situation to keep an eye out for all our whanau and our families and our children,” Naidu said.

Ikinia fears the possibility of having to leave New Zealand before finishing his studies and the impact it could have on his community back home.

“For me, I would love to learn here so that young people who would love to have an education, like myself, can think positively – that hope is there.”

Anauli Karima Fai’ai reporting for Tagata Pasifika. Republished with permission.

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