Struggling to study: USP’s regional students and lockdowns

Regional students studying at the University of the South Pacific’s Laucala campus in Fiji have had another difficult semester. The COVID-19 outbreak which began in April this year and has claimed over 150 lives has shown no signs of slowing down, causing many of USP’s regional students—most who haven’t been home since the start of 2020—great concern.

Students from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and FSM have now completed the first semester of this year’s study, and wait earnestly for announcements on arrangements for semester two.

For many students, the shift in learning mode was difficult to adjust to. “I am a student who learns more from face-face mode when studying…and since COVID-19 happened, it has been difficult since the study mode is online and I also depend on the school resources and facilities,” said Christopher Sigrah, a student from the Federated States of Micronesia.

Two female students from Vanuatu and Solomon Islands agreed, saying they prefer to learn physically alongside others. On-campus students who rely on the school Wi-Fi to conduct their learning faced extra difficulties, as Wi-Fi can only be accessed in certain areas on campus.

This became a problem whenever the USP Halls of Residence management called for full restrictions on movement due to suspected cases on campus and the students were confined to their rooms. “In my room there isn’t good network connection, so I relied on the school Wi-Fi in the campus. I also had a faulty laptop, so whenever they allowed us to study in the labs it was good, but the masks were uncomfortable sometimes” says Yougin Choi, a Solomon Islands business student.