FACILITIES AT FIJI’S RURAL SCHOOLS A 'DISGRACE,' PM QARASE TELLS PRINCIPALS

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FACILITIES AT FIJI’S RURAL SCHOOLS A 'DISGRACE,' PM QARASE TELLS PRINCIPALS

By Elenoa Masi-Baselala

SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 26, 2002 - Fiji Times/PINA Nius Online)---Those who pretend that race is not an issue in Fiji are living in cloud cuckoo land, Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase said while opening the 91st Fiji Principals Conference.

Mr. Qarase said these people are the same critics who are opposed to the government's affirmative action and social justice programs to bring indigenous Fijians' education level to that of other communities.

Speaking to nearly 100 principals and guests, Mr. Qarase said rural schools not having adequate education facilities was an injustice.

"Fijian children in rural schools suffer from the worst school conditions; what they have to put up with is a national disgrace," Mr. Qarase said.

"Students have limited access to medical facilities; there is a lack of electricity, telephones, roads and reliable water supplies.

"It is distressing to see that children as young as five and six are forced to board in such deprived circumstances."

Mr. Qarase said Labour Member of Parliament Kamlesh Arya's comments that Fijian students attending non-Fijian schools would not benefit from affirmative action was nonsense.

Mr. Qarase said: "Those Fijian children Mr. Arya refers to are already benefiting from their attendance at some of the bigger and better equipped schools, which receive the largest slice of government assistance.

"When Mr. Arya speaks of the benefits enjoyed by Fijian-run schools, he should explain whether he is speaking of those which must operate in such shocking circumstances."

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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