The School Management;
School Teachers and Students;
Parents and Guardians;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula vinaka, and good afternoon to you all.
Thank you all for your warm hospitality, it’s wonderful to see your smiling faces in Ba as we open four new classrooms for the Veisaru Primary School.
This impressive new campus, with its buildings painted in beautiful Fiji blue, is quite a different picture than we would have seen standing at this same location in 2016.
I don’t have to remind any of you of the immense damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Winston; homes, businesses, and schools all across Fiji were damaged or destroyed, and Veisaru Primary was no exception. For a school that had stood since 1937, this loss was truly devastating –– not just to the students and teachers who relied on it for teaching and learning, but to the entire community of which it had grown to be a pillar.
Between then and now, roughly a dozen more tropical cyclones and depressions have hit Fiji and affected the progress of reconstruction, showing the frightening impact of climate change while reinforcing the need for us to do this project right, building back better in order to withstand future storms.
Because we know that – due to climate change – cyclones like Winston are going to become more frequent in the years ahead, and it is our duty to keep our students safe from those storms on the horizon.
My friends, that’s something we call foresight – planning for the future. Knowing that things are going to change from where they stand today, and that we must look ahead to keep from being left behind. The Veisaru Sanatan Dharam School was established through foresight, with its founders recognising – over 80 years ago – the critical need for education, both in a young person’s life and in a community.
And I personally appreciate that fundamental recognition –– recognition that has lasted generations beyond the school’s founding, and still exists within the Fijians living in Ba today. It’s that same recognition of the power of education that has driven my work as Prime Minister since day one.
In my mission to bring high-quality education into the life of every Fijian child, I’ve worked with countless community partners over the years who share my passion for education.
Through the pursuit of that mission, we’ve expanded access to schooling at all levels, from kindergarten to tertiary institutions and everywhere in between, and we have worked relentlessly to eliminate cost as a barrier to opportunity – whether that means subsidising tuition, bus fares or textbooks. And we will continue to support our teachers and students in every way possible; because investing in education is investing in the Fiji of today and the Fiji of the future.
But to really make the most of education, we also need our students to invest in themselves. Think of every day in class not as a chore, but as an opportunity – your parents and grand-parents may not have been so lucky to have had the chance to go to school, and they certainly didn’t have as many great career paths at their feet as you do today.
But now, by putting your head down and studying hard, and by taking school seriously, anything is possible. You can create any future you want for yourself, and choose the life you want to live. Never before has Fiji been so filled with potential, so I urge you to take full advantage of it.
By doing so, you are helping to create a better future for yourself, a better future for those you love, and a better future for Fiji.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.