Fiji Education Initiatives To Continue

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Current reforms will ensure education for all children

By Keresi Nauwakarawa

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, January 11, 2016) – The Government is adamant the current reforms will ensure all children have a chance at education.

This statement was delivered by the Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts, Dr Mahendra Reddy, at the Suva Grammar School hall in Nasese on Friday.

He said the free education initiatives would continue this year.

"Last year we gave out 5000 tablets and we had this for the interior and maritime areas."

He said school transportation was an area they would focus on this year.

"We are also looking at the provision of boats with engines to schools that have to travel inter-islands.

"From last year we serviced 15 schools."

He said textbooks were delayed last year, but they would improve in this regard.

"Every child will receive their free textbooks this year."

He said the next reform planned would roll out in the next two months.

"Our mind is shifting towards Pillar 4 which is parental engagement and the education for parents to find out we are talking and interacting with them on how it works."

He said part of the reform this year was to improve students' literacy rate.

"We want to prepare them for the digital phase. But we are also preparing a paper on literacy."

A parent at the forum, Selina Kuruleca, complained that since February last year the sim cards for tablets of Veiuto Primary School had been taken by education officials and were yet to be returned.

In response, Dr Reddy said Veiuto Primary School would receive the sim cards this year. He said another key area they would focus on this year was effective leadership.

"We want students to learn life skills like Scouts and girl guides programs in schools but we are open to other submissions."

Reverend Immanuel Reuben called for the substitution of the free milk and Weet-Bix being offered by the Education Ministry.

"Natural food is now disappearing from our diet. Parents not feeding their children this natural food and the free Weet-Bix increases reliance on processed foods. How about using roti parcels and other indigenous breakfast foods."

Ministry of Education director secondary Timoci Bure, in response, said the free milk and Weet-Bix initiative should not be politicised.

"We have evidence of children coming to school without breakfast as most of the children came from broken families," he said.

"We have children that are suffering. Now this was the reason we have put this initiative in place."

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