Bula vinaka my fellow Fijians, and a very happy new year to you and your families.

With the start of 2020 comes the beginning of a new academic year, and I would like to extend my warmest wishes to all our students setting out a new chapter in your journeys of learning and discovery.

I’d like to offer a particularly special welcome to all our newbies in school –– those students entering kindergarten and Year 1 for the first time who look to Monday with both excitement and, if you’re like my children and a grandchildren were, a little bit of nervousness.  I know first time in a school environment away home can be intimidating, but I promise you this – you have a big future ahead of you. You’ll make new friends, learn new things, and create memories that will last a lifetime.

And for those students returning to school, I encourage you to make 2020  the best year yet. Put your heads down to study hard, participate in sport and extracurricular activities, and try something new. That’s what these years are for – to find your passion, and to pursue it relentlessly.

Please, don’t let the opportunities at your feet in this new school year go to waste. Through education, you’ll have the chance to build the life you want to live –– which not only matters for your future, but for the future of Fiji and indeed the world.

This is why I have always invested in education as a way to progress our country as a whole, and to uplift Fijian families and communities across our nation. It’s why, through the introduction of free primary and secondary education, we have more Fijian girls and boys in our classrooms than at any point in our nation’s history. And it’s why I am proud to say that my government will continue to provide the necessary resources to students, parents, and teachers that will keep this momentum going.

The fact is that Fiji needs you – and the world needs you – to bring about positive change. You are the faces of Fiji’s future; the faces who will grow to fight injustices, combat disease and curb climate change. We will need your buy-in to keep raising our beloved Fiji to new heights.

But to do all that, you need the best possible education. You need to study, you need to learn, and you need to create that future for yourself. Because while Government can provide you with free education, textbooks, and subsidised bus fares, it is up to you to ensure these opportunities – opportunities that weren’t available to your parents and grandparents – don’t go to waste.

Each and every one of you has something great to offer – something that only you can bring into this world. I urge you all to harness that greatness that is within you. Tap into it by showing up to school each day with a spirit of learning, listening and love. I ask that all students treat your teachers and fellow classmates with respect and kindness, and treat others how you would like to be treated.

I also ask all parents, guardians and teachers to continue to support our children in this new academic year. We must show our children that we believe in them, and we must continue to encourage them to be the best they can be. You are the greatest supporters in educating our young people, and I thank you for your shared commitment to creating a Fiji of unprecedented opportunity for our young people.

As Fiji prepares to mark 50 years of independence, I challenge all of our students to make 2020 a milestone year for yourselves through your studies – by doing so, you are playing your part in making this a milestone year for the next 50 years of our nation. I myself was in secondary school when we first became an independent Fiji, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without those formative years and the many invaluable lessons I learned through my youth. I have big hopes for each and every one of our students, and I’ll be watching closely as you progress through the year ahead.

Vinaka vakalevu, thank you, and I wish you all the best for 2020. May God bless you all throughout this academic year, and may God bless Fiji.

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