FIJI UNABLE TO HIRE TEACHERS, DESPITE NEED

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Feb. 2) - Fiji would need 1,500 more primary school teachers if the government was to follow recommendations of the 1993 Fiji Public Service Job Evaluation exercise, a teachers union official says.

Fiji Teachers Union general secretary Agni Deo Singh highlighted the issue after the Education Ministry stated it would not be able to find jobs immediately for the large number of teacher graduates available.

A Report by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, a New York-based consultancy firm, says there are too many pupils in Fiji classrooms to be taught effectively.

The report said the lack of classroom accommodation, acute shortage of teachers, retirement at 55, absenteeism and lack of a relief pool of teachers to take over made it difficult to reduce class sizes.

"Teachers are working harder and more are needed so students get a good education," Singh said. "But to provide quality education, these classes need more than one teacher so students can feel their needs are being catered."

Education Minister Ro Teimumu Kepa said the number of teachers hired is dictated by the national budget.

"We have 20 percent of the budget so we can't really complain as we are thankful for the allocation," she said.

She said getting more teachers was not something they could accommodate at will.

Graduates from the University of the South Pacific, Corpus Christi and the Fiji Institute of Technology crowded the Education Ministry yesterday. Most have been waiting for a letter of appointment from the ministry for over three weeks.

February 3, 2005

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