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New Zealand to strengthen education in Tonga

29 June 2004

New Zealand to strengthen education in Tonga

New Zealand will work in partnership with the Government of Tonga and the World Bank on a $14 million project to improve the quality and accessibility of education in Tonga, Aid Minister Marian Hobbs announced today.

"Tonga does not have poverty to the extent we see in some Pacific nations, but there are still large gaps between wealth and opportunity. Education is a key mechanism to address some of these disparities and I am pleased that New Zealand can assist Tonga in this area," Marian Hobbs said.

"Over the next three years, our international aid and development agency, NZAID, will extend its position as the leading donor in the education sector in Tonga. This is an important position and means that New Zealand can take a very active role in the development of young people in Tonga.

"The funding will facilitate the implementation of the Tongan Government's Education Strategy. The key goals we will be helping Tonga work towards are ensuring all children will have access to quality education, and also that other quality education opportunities are available for Tongan young people depending on their skills and interests.

"We have been helping Tonga lay the groundwork for this project for some time. The recent budget increase for our aid work has meant that NZAID can commit to this project in a very significant way. Our commitment has also meant the Tongan Government does not need to take out a large loan to support the project.

"It would be very difficult for New Zealand to manage this scale of project on its own, but fortunately we have a strong historical relationship with the World Bank in Tonga and they will assist NZAID and the Tongan Government with the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the project.

"The World Bank will also provide the Government of Tonga with an interest-free credit of $1 million (US) to get an important aspect of the project up and running - a grants-based school financing system. This funding, and part of NZAID's funds, will be through a trust fund approach, an innovative model which could be useful in other Pacific Island countries and sectors.

"The most important aspect of this project though is the wonderful outcomes for the children of the Pacific we expect, and what they will mean for Tonga in the future."

ENDS

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