OVER 300 TEACHERS HAVE LEFT FIJI SINCE THE COUP

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By Imran Ali

SUVA, Fiji Islands (April 23, 2001 - The Fiji Times/PINA Nius Online)---More than 300 teachers have emigrated since the political crisis last year in which the government of Mahendra Chaudhry was ousted.

Fiji Teachers Union General Secretary Agni Deo Singh said the qualified teachers are being replaced by graduates from the university who need time before being able to perform as well as their predecessors.

"Teachers holding senior positions, especially heads of departments, are the ones who are leaving our shores in large numbers," Mr. Singh said.

In the official Fiji Gazette on April 12, the Public Service Commission disclosed that the appointment of 130 teachers to the position of head teacher and assistant head teacher will take effect from the start of the year.

Fiji has been hit by a continuing "brain drain" since the unrest and violence of last May.

Mr. Singh said the education sector would face a serious problem of quality if the trend continues.

"Quality is compromised with the caliber of people appointed as replacements and this will only be known when the external examination results are out at the end of the year," he said.

Mr. Singh added that the only way to bring the mass migration under control is to return the country to constitutional rule.

"Without democratic rule, people are going to leave and the number is expected to increase even further after people who lodged their applications after the coup will be getting the go-ahead in two to three months time," he said.

Fiji Public Service Association General Secretary Rajeshwar Singh said records indicate most of the teachers have migrated to New Zealand because of an acute shortage of graduate teachers there.

"They get a work permit easily and the fact that New Zealand is facing a shortage of teachers is an added advantage to them," he said.

Fiji is currently governed by a caretaker government and is preparing for general elections in August, which will return it to parliamentary government.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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