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Over 1,000 Tongan Households Get Boost To Help Keep Students In School

Nuku’alofa, June 23, 2020 – The Government of Tonga and the World Bank have provided conditional cash transfers to 1,162 Tongan households at a project launch in the Tongan capital, Nuku’alofa as part of an effort to address the financial constraints many households face in keeping their children in secondary school.

As part of the Skills and Employment for Tongans (SET) Project, the World Bank is supporting the Tongan government to implement the cash transfer program, with the main recurring payments of TOP250 (USD110) designed to assist with school fees and other educational costs for over 2,000 Tongan high school students.

An additional one-off payment of TOP200 is also provided to assist vulnerable Tongan families deal with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) Pandemic. The families who received both payments were identified through a nationally run poverty means test.

The SET project works through Tonga’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Education and Training to directly address Tonga’s high secondary school drop-out rates – which have reached around 20 percent of students annually – as well as ensuring those that have dropped out of secondary school have alternative vocational and learning pathways.

“The conditional cash transfer for vulnerable households in Tonga is a blessing for these families. It will provide financial support to vulnerable families to keep their children in school and assist with the purchase of needed school supplies,” said Prime Minister, the Hon. Rev. Dr. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa.

The Skills and Employment for Tongans project will also ensure technical and vocational education and training courses are improved to help students build skills to make them more employable in Tonga, as well as through Australian or New Zealand employment programs.

"The transfer of these funds shows that the SET project is about much more than creating formal employment opportunities – it is about ensuring families can support their children in reaching their full potential. We are also thrilled that the project has been able to be adjusted to provide needed rapid assistance to vulnerable families in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic,” Natalia Latu, the World Bank’s Liaison Officer to Tonga said at the event.

Additionally, it was also announced that 125 students in post-secondary technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions will have their course fees paid by the project. These student support funds will be paid directly to training institutions to assist the students build skills that make them more competitive in global and domestic labour markets.

Skills and Employment for Tongans (SET) is funded through a US$18.5 million grant from the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the most in-need countries. A US$2.4 million grant from the Australia-Pacific Islands Partnership Trust Fund will also support the project.

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