A STUDENT leader at the University of Technology Unitech) in Lae is adamant that students will not return to classes unless the former vice chancellor, Dr Albert Schram, is reinstated.
Dr Schram was removed from his post and deported from Papua New Guinea a year ago just months into his tenure at the university.
A member of the Student Representative Council, Stanley Kombra Tepoka, told RNZI’s Don Wiseman that Dr Schram had had an immediate impact, improving roading, building staff housing and ensuring students had ATMs on campus.
And he says Dr Schram's effect on education services provided by the university was significant.
STANLEY KOMBRA TEPOKA: From what I saw from past vice chancellors and past executive management, what he did was he actually went around the campus, making sure things run smoothly, students are going to classes, teachers are there teaching - that's some of the things that have never happened and I had never seen it from other past vice chancellors.
When he came in he really got to the problem and, one of those, [involving] student learning he tried his best to improve the internet service. And he was trying to upgrade the library. We also have a library that has outdated books and stuff in here that has never been updated since the university was established.
DON WISEMAN: I have got a picture then, but students there have now been protesting since he left a year ago. What is it you are trying to achieve because it would seem I guess unlikely that Dr Schram is coming back because he hasn't even got a visa has he? He can't get a visa.
SKT: No he hasn't. No. The reason we are fighting for him is, like I have already told you, we have seen changes in him, in his management. That is the reason we are fighting for him.
Last year we fought for him, actually we got down into violence, and we burned cars and chased all the senior executive management and now we have an acting senior executive management in place and the students all support him [Dr Schram] to come back and it is not because he is an expat and we want him because he is a white man. No, we want him to come back because we see change in him, we see transparency in him, we see accountability in him.
DW: What sort of backing have you got from the student body?
SKT: No one has been divided here. We are standing as one. United. All students are at the back, the staff, non-academic and the academic staff, we are all standing at the back of the SRC [Students Representative Council] pushing for Dr Albert Schram to come back to Unitech.
DW: In the meantime you are boycotting classes.
SKT: Yes. Boycotting classes for an indefinite period. Until and unless we see Dr Albert Schram back at the campus.
DW: And everyone is boycotting every class?
SKT: Every class. There is no one going into classes. All classes are being stopped. Yesterday [Tuesday] we blocked down the admin - admin is shut. We want to see Dr Albert Schram coming in and opening the school and we want to hold class with him. Not anybody, apart from him.