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UNITEC committed to Tongan project

UNITEC committed to Tongan project

Auckland tertiary UNITEC is committed to working with Tonga to deliver much-needed technology training in the kingdom, despite concerns it has over the outcome of initial talks with Tongan education officials.

"We know there is a need for vocational and technology training in Tonga and we have responded to a request from them to help deliver some of our programmes over there," said CEO Dr John Webster.

"We have concerns about how those talks have progressed to date, but we will not walk away from discussions at this stage."

Dr Webster said UNITEC had received no explanation from officials as to why the Tonga Royal Institute, which is to be funded by the Tongan Government and private investors, had been calling itself the UNITEC Tonga Royal Institute. However, UNITEC had received a letter of apology from the institute and an assurance that UNITEC's name and logo would no longer be used.

There was also concern about the Tongan MP Etuate Lavulavu accompanying the King of Tonga on a visit to UNITEC last week. Lavulavu set up the Vocational and Technical Institute of Tonga, of which the king is a patron, but UNITEC understood Lavulavu would not be involved with the new Tonga Royal Institute.

UNITEC received a letter today from Dr Makafalani Tatafu, Chief Executive Dean of the Tonga Royal Institute, confirming that Lavulavu was not associated with the institute. Lavulavu faces forgery charges in the United States.

Dr Webster said the two meetings to date between UNITEC and Tongan officials had focused on the kinds of programmes UNITEC might assist with. The United Nations had identified that vocational and technical training promoting self-employment was needed in Tonga, and UNITEC had been approached as it was seen as a leader in that area.

"Although the political situation in Tonga is making it difficult for us to work with them and we have concerns over who is able to make decisions there, we do not want politics to get in the way of educational needs.

"All our programmes meet New Zealand Qualifications Authority standards and we will only allow them to be delivered in a Tongan institution if they can guarantee to meet those standards, and if the institution delivering the programmes is sound.

"If we do not feel those criteria can be met then we will reassess our involvement."

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