Naivisere Matanikutu, Turaga na Qaranivalu;
The Head Teacher, Teachers and Students;
Parents and Guardians; Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula Vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.
I’m delighted to be here at the Navuso Primary School.
The education of young Fijians is a paramount priority for my Government and a cause to which I hold a great personal devotion.
Some of your students may be too young to remember, but not so long ago the halls of schools such as the Navuso Primary School were occupied only by children whose parents could afford school fees, the cost of transportation and the cost of textbooks. Some girls and boys – not unlike yourselves – could not afford to sit where you’re sitting today.
But we’ve brought those days to an end: School everywhere in Fiji is now free, textbooks are free, and we cover the costs of travel for students who need that assistance. And, so long as I serve you as Prime Minister, I assure you: Education will always remain free in this country.
These achievements – along with unprecedented funding to loans and scholarships – have spurred a revolution in education, with record enrolment in primary schools, secondary schools, and tertiary institutions. We haven’t limited our education agenda to accessibility – it’s also about quality. Not only the quality of your curriculum, but the quality of the facilities that house students and teachers.
Today I’m proud to officially open new, high-quality quarters for your teachers to call home. With the comfort and security of proper housing, your teachers can focus on what matters most – teaching. Instead of spending time worrying about their own well-being, teachers can focus on their work in the classroom. The new energy they bring will be felt by each of their students. Sometimes, all it takes is that extra push from a motivated teacher to inspire a passion for maths, sciences, or the arts that stays with a young person for all of their life.
For decades, that spark of inspiration was missing from many schools in rural and maritime regions as their facilities – including teachers’ quarters – were noticeably shabbier than schools in urban areas. On top of that, the allowance we paid to remote teachers was much lower than today. As a result, life was made unduly difficult for rural teachers and the top teaching talent was often siphoned off to the urban schools.
Now, we’re doing things differently. We’ve allocated an unprecedented 13.8 Million Dollars towards location allowances for primary and secondary teachers in remote areas. And as of this year, we are including early childhood education teachers in this initiative for the first time ever, with $500,000 for their location allowances. Across all levels of learning, this has been a big step in the right direction when it comes to levelling the playing field in education.
Instead of leaving rural communities stuck in the past, we’re steadily expanding the network of high-quality educational facilities across the hundreds of rural communities across our country. Over the past two weeks, I’ve opened projects similar to this at Sawanikula Primary School, Ratu Veikoso Primary School, Cautata District School and just this morning, the Nabukaluka District School. And when schools have been damaged in severe cyclones, such as TC Winston, we’re building them back to a stronger, cyclone-resilient standard. When it comes to funding that effort, we don’t think about whether a school is Government-owned or privately-run, we support every school and every student that needs our help.
In the Fiji we are seeking to build, educational outcomes will never be defined by circumstances of birth.
Whether a young person comes up in the heart of Suva or the countryside of Bua – they will attend classes in modern, functional facilities, they will have access to the newest technologies and curriculum and they will be instructed by passionate, knowledgeable and qualified teachers who are compensated fairly and who live with the security of highquality housing.
The teaching profession today is paying more than ever, it is opening more doors of opportunity, and it is being backed by resources and structural reform to improve service delivery. I challenge all Fijian teachers to live up to this support that Government is providing them; we’ve raised the bar, and we need you to meet it – for the sake of Fijian students, and Fiji’s future.
Friends, Fiji is the throes of an incredible spate of progress.
Our economy is growing more modern, we’re welcoming new development, technologies and opportunities, and we need young people who are equipped to carry our progress forward through the coming decades.
( Speaking to students ) In the faces of you, our students, I see the future doctors, lawyers, plumbers, joiners, farmers, teachers, scientists and entrepreneurs who will build the Fiji of tomorrow. And I’m very proud to open this latest investment supporting your tremendous potential here at the Navuso Primary School.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.