The Honourable Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts,
The School Manager and Members of the Committee,
Head Teachers and Principals of the nearby Schools,
Parents, Friends, Students,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.
Today, we embark on another major project to expand access to high-quality education for our students, this time for the people of Bau, as we break ground for the construction of the new Bau Central College.
Once completed, this new campus will mark another milestone in my Government’s relentless effort to spread the enormous benefits of affordable education to the Fijian people. It will bring us closer to ensuring that every child, no matter where they call home, can secure a better future for themselves through the knowledge and skills acquired in our schools.
My Government has displayed an unwavering commitment to our duty – as written in the Fijian Constitution – to uphold the right of every person to access education. Because such access has been proven, time and time again, as the most effective way to end poverty, improve quality of life and even the playing field at every level of society.
It was for those reasons that my Government launched the free education and free text books initiatives and the free fares for travelling students. Because no family should have to consider the financial implications of sending their child to school and no child should feel unequipped in the classroom. The benefits of those programs are felt everyday by hard-working parents in Fiji and for their children, whose participation in school has no longer been limited by their financial situation at home.
But there are even deeper issues affecting our children’s ability to attend school and to perform to the best of their abilities. Often, the resources and the classrooms are simply too far away. And that is why we have matched our free education schemes with an ambitious slate of new school development projects throughout our islands. primary schools, secondary schools, technical and tertiary institutions all being opened across Fiji, bringing unprecedented educational options to our people. We’ve opened three new secondary schools this year alone, and, soon, your community will be able to welcome a new secondary school of your own.
This new school campus will welcome students from Ratu Ravuama Primary, Cautata District, Bau District, Nakelo District, Krishna Vedic School, Dravo Primary, Namata District School, Daku Village School, Nasamila District, Sanatan Dharaam Primary and Kuku District School, all of whom will have a convenient, modern and functional new school facility to further their educations.
My Government has allocated a total of $1.6 million to fund the construction of a new school campus on these grounds, and the construction work has been tendered to Super Construction – who are scheduled to deliver the completed work in January 2018.
Ladies and gentlemen,
While this is a day of celebration for the people of Bau, there are still areas of Fiji that were hit badly by Cyclone Winston where some of our students are still awaiting the reconstruction of their schools. As you all know, Cyclone Winston brought devastation to Fiji like we had never seen before, in fact, it was the strongest cyclone to ever make landfall in the Southern Hemisphere. And we are working hard to reclaim everything we lost to the storm, and, for all the reasons I’ve stated, we want to get all of our affected students back into proper school buildings as soon as possible. But these new schools must be built to a standard that can withstand severe weather events – like Winston – and that takes time.
Already we have begun rebuilding 112 schools throughout the country, with plans to begin construction on 39 others soon, and four schools have already been completely rebuilt. And we are undertaking extensive repair works on all of our schools that sustained damage in the storm as well. And when those schools do re-open their doors, they will be of the standard and quality worthy of the students who call them home.
I look forward to this new school’s completion, long-awaited by the people of Bau and, once completed, worthy to serve your young people and the many generations that will follow in their footsteps.
I wish all you and your families a blessed Easter Weekend.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.