Navuakece, Na Turaga na Vunivalu;
Teachers and Students;
Parents and Guardians;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
A very good afternoon to you all.
It’s good to be in the Naitasiri Province today to start off my week, as we gather to commission the new teachers’ quarters at Navuakece Primary School.
This is only the latest in a recent streak of achievements –– just last week, amid the historic visit of my good friend Jacinda Ardern, you may have seen the many other reasons for excitement in communities across Fiji. We commissioned the impressive $1.73-million-dollar crossing in Emuri, celebrated the beautifully-rebuilt, $2.6-million-dollar Veisaru Sanatam Dharam School, and of course, officially opened the $4.8-million-dollar Namaka Market.
My friends, to some, those millions of dollars of investments and development may make today’s commissioning here in the Lomaivuna District seem small. But I’m here this morning because I know that the impact that this project will have on the lives of your teachers, your students, and your community, is very large indeed.
Because ultimately, you can’t put a price on the well-being of our people – and that is particularly true when it comes to someone like a teacher, who by the very nature of their job, touches the lives of so many others. That’s why, all throughout Fiji, you’ll have seen me opening new teachers’ quarters like these– attractive, convenient, and well-constructed homes, as we give back to the women and men who chose to give so much to their country through education.
The families who send their children to Navuakece Primary School are all too familiar with the need for strong, reliable buildings like these new teacher’s quarters. When Tropical Cyclone Winston struck Fiji in 2016, the widespread damage felt all across the country certainly didn’t spare the Lomaivuna District. Like many of your own homes, the previous teacher’s quarters were totally destroyed by the storm’s raging winds.
That’s why my Government chose to build back better – we wanted to make an investment that would last. Only then would the peace of mind of your teachers be restored, without them having to live in fear with every new storm warning or darkening cloud.
Because, my friends, the well-being of our teachers is at the heart of my Government’s work. And we know that the renewed well-being these quarters will provide aren’t just about physical safety and security – it’s about meeting the mental and emotional needs of our teachers, and giving them comfort and predictability that allows them to focus all of their energy on the education of Fijian girls and boys who come to school ready to learn every day.
And just as we look after the physical and mental well-being of our teachers, we need them to help us do the same for our students.
Last night, I was both sickened and outraged when I saw a video from last year at RKS that was circulating online, showing a student being brutally beaten and bullied by his classmates. It broke my heart – I saw my own children and grand-children in him, as I’m sure all parents did. While Police are investigating the matter, let me be clear: Fiji should have zero tolerance for this merciless behaviour.
But teachers alone can’t stop abuse. This is a breakdown in our social values, and we need to fight it at every level – from Government, school, and at home. Never mistake cruelty for “normal child’s play”. Students, don’t view the vulnerable as an easy target for picking on or beating. That doesn’t make you tough – it makes a coward. True strength comes from speaking out, standing up, and protecting those who need it most. Parents, know that this abuse too often starts from home, and you need to make it clear that wherever your children are, they must treat all Fijians with kindness and respect.
And teachers, I ask that you work to create a culture of trust and love in your classrooms that combats this behaviour before it starts.
To close, I’d like to thank the teachers of Navuakece Primary School – and all of Fiji’s educators – for their contribution in shaping the minds of our young people. By doing so, you are enriching our communities, modernising our economy, and progressing our country.
I look forward to watching the young Fijians who come through Navuakece School go on to do great things in the years ahead.
Vinaka vakalevu, thank you