The President of the Ba Sanatan College, Mr Brij Dayal;
The School Management;
Teachers and Staff;
Parents, Guardians and Students;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula Vinaka and a very good evening to you all.
I hope you all enjoyed a bright, peaceful Diwali with your family and friends.
I know I had one too many barafis myself.
We are truly blessed to call home a country where Fijians from all backgrounds are celebrated and in which we can freely enjoy our religious festivals, secure in our equality.
I am very happy to be here in Ba with all of you today, to celebrate the Golden Jubilee Anniversary of Ba Sanatan College. Half a century of service is an incredible milestone, especially when you consider how young our country is. Ba Sanatan College began in 1972, only two years after Fiji gained Independence. It was a very different time in many ways. For one, the internet didn’t exist! There were no mobile phones or even television sets. I know that may sound crazy to some of our younger guests here tonight.
The pioneers of Ba Sanatan College could never have known everything that our modern society would become –– but they did know that education could ensure their children would be ready for whatever the future held. They were not only dreamers – they were people of action.
It is important that we never forget the people and the values that made this school a reality. Thousands of students who have passed through these classrooms over the last half century have been able to receive an education that allowed them to pursue their dreams, build families, make a living and make important national contributions to our beloved country.
Fast forward to today and we can look back with gratitude on the foresight and activism of Ba Sanatan College’s predecessors. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Government I lead shares their vision of a better future through better education. We have made primary and secondary education completely free for every single Fijian for the first time in our nation’s history. Every child, regardless of their socio-economic status, gender, religion, or ethnicity now has equal access to an education that they can count on to carry them through life.
For the first time, textbooks are free and whether they travel by road, river, or sea, disadvantaged students’ transportation to schools is subsidized.
Since its introduction, TELS has empowered over 50,000 students to access higher education they otherwise may not have been able to afford, and we aim to empower hundreds of thousands more through the years ahead. Without a doubt, our Fijian Education Revolution stands as my proudest achievement to date.
As a father of six, grandfather to nineteen and now a great-grandfather to one, a lot of my life revolves around children and youth. I know the work it takes to push them to be their best, to encourage them, harbour hopes for their happiness and to constantly be praying for their well-being.
This is why I want to truly commend the dedication of Ba Sanatan College – every teacher, head of school, school management committee member, parent and employee – that has been instrumental in helping this school not only stay open, but to thrive for fifty years. Every one of you, along with those who have now passed on, have been a part of creating a future that is brighter, more just and more equal. You have given hope to the thousands of students who have passed through your classrooms – many of whom came from rural communities.
Ba Sanatan College has established a reputation over its lifetime as a source of well-balanced, conscientious, and diligent young people. For those of you who have begun thinking about life after high school, I am proud to confirm that your Government has committed a $162.6 Million Dollars allocation through the 2022-2023 National Budget, to fund scholarships, study loans and grants.
We will award more scholarships, more study loans, and more grants in this financial year than any year in Fijian history – the total number of scholarships for the 2022-2023 financial year will be doubled to 1,200 and Government will increase the National Toppers Local Scheme from 547 to 770.
Further, teachers who have the relevant educational qualifications will now qualify for a salary raise to ensure that our teachers are constantly seeking to raise their game and provide our students with better education.
I am not able to cover everything that we have included in the Budget. However, I encourage you to have a look through the material which is online, and see for yourself that we are a Government that listens to our people and that is prepared to take any action necessary to ensure that no Fijian is left behind.
Friends, you have to go through life with more than just passion; you need a strategy. You have to match your passion with a clear plan of action if you are going to achieve anything meaningful. Your pioneering founders knew this; I know this and my Government continues to achieve record-breaking progress for the Fijian people because of this. We cannot allow the meteoric growth we are seeing across our economy, agriculture, tourism, education, private sector, infrastructure and development be jeopardised by anyone seeking to profit only themselves.
I want to end by reminding students, teachers, and guardians that your Government believes that education is the greatest investment we can make in our future. Education makes us more resilient –– by allowing us to create solutions that we once could not imagine. It brings us together by levelling the playing field of Fijian society. And it sets us on a lifelong journey of self-improvement that will better our lives and better Fiji.
I compliment the successive generations of management, staff and students who have kept the flag of Ba Sanatan College flying high. To the teachers of Ba Sanatan College, keep up the good work and take pride in your work. To the students, keep working hard, listen to your teachers and always strive for excellence. And to everyone in the communities nearby, please support your children and their ambitions in life. Education happens at home as much as it happens in classrooms, if not more.
Providing your children with good examples and values will ensure that they have a better life, and it will make Fiji a better place to live in for generations to come.
I wish Ba Sanatan College a Happy 50th Anniversary!
Vinaka Vakalevu – Thank you.