FIJI SCHOOL KIDS BEAR BRUNT OF LAND DISPUTES

Editorial

Fiji Times

SUVA, Fiji (June 29) - For all the effort, resources and attention given to providing good and quality education for our children, we continue to witness unnecessary disruptions to classes.

The Government allocates it the biggest chunk from its annual budget. This year it stands at over FJ$300 million [US$170 million].

For their part, parents work hard to ensure their children are at school and aptly equipped when classes start. In many households, education is at the top of budget and for a very important and valid reason too. The high value we put on education is universal.

So it is always painful to see children being sent home from school or have their classes disrupted for reasons beyond the students or teachers control.

It was another case of water cuts, which forced two schools close. Two weeks ago, Adi Cakobau School in Sawani [located near Nausori Town, outside of Suva], the country’s biggest girls boarding school, was forced to close.

Yesterday at Ratu Kadavulevu School, one of the country’s biggest boys boarding institutions owned by the Government, landowners closed off water supply to the school. Classes were affected.

What is particularly disappointing here is that it is not the first time landowners forced disruptions to classes because of an old grievance over the land lease. They claim the lease expired in 1997 and has not been renewed since.

When they forced the closure of the school last year, there was a mutual understanding with the Education ministry that it was going to resolve the land lease issue with the Native Land Trust Board.

Obviously nothing has been done over the issue thus yesterdays disruptions. That is not to say that the actions of the landowners should be condoned. They have done this once too often. They may own the land but they have a responsibility as good citizens, as they have been reminded so many times before, to exhaust all avenues of dialogue and negotiation before they even consider acting in such an irresponsible manner.

On the other hand, the ministry has to get off its back and complete its side of the deal. Someone is obviously sleeping on the job at Marela House and he or she deserves disciplinary action. It will be a wake-up call.

The land row at Lodoni has to be resolved once and for all so students can concentrate on their primary objective there education and the clan can get a fair return from use of their land.

To ensure no further cases, one option would be to take legal action against parties or individual landowners, ministry or land administrators who are the cause of the problem. It warrants drastic action for the sake of our children.

June 30, 2006

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com .

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