NZ to fund school fees for Samoan students

The Prime Minister has announced New Zealand will fund the school fees of years nine to 11 students in Samoa.

John Key, Labour Party leader David Shearer and a delegation of MPs from across Parliament are in Samoa to mark the signing of the Treaty of Friendship 50 years ago.

This morning Mr Key announced the education funding initiative, which will cost NZ$5 million over three years and will cover the fees of 16,000 students.

It will be funded from the New Zealand Aid budget, and may eventually stretch to a five-year agreement as it goes through a transition with the Samoan government which will eventually pick up the cost.

At the Pacific Island Forum last year, New Zealand and Australia pledged to spend $1 billion across the whole of the Pacific on education.

Mr Key was welcomed to Apia last night by Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi ahead of the friendship commemorations.

Samoa gained independence 50 years ago, ending New Zealand's colonial administration and a Treaty of Friendship was signed as a way to forge ahead with a new relationship.

Mr Key and Prime Minister Malielegaoi will today discuss how this relationship can continue to evolve over the next 50 years.

"I look forward to meeting Prime Minister Tuilaepa and members of his Cabinet while in Samoa to mark the 50th anniversary, as well as discussing regional issues of mutual interest ahead of this year's Pacific Islands Forum," Mr Key said.

"Samoa is the only country in the world with which New Zealand has a formal Friendship Treaty - it's a mark of our deep ties, shared values and long history of cooperation," said Mr Key.

Mr Key will attend a state lunch at Robert Louis Stevenson Museum where the Treaty of Friendship was signed and will visit the village of Poutasi to see how it has been rebuilt after it was devastated in the tsunami in 2009.

- Kate Shuttleworth, APNZ

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