Saturday, April 18, 2015

Regarding ACS and other schools

from w
Here's a sensible letter from a correspondent to the Fiji Times concerning the decision of the Education Minister to make new rules for ACS, QVS and RKS schools.

Vinaka Susie.


Susana Tuisawau, Flagstaff, Suva | Saturday, April 18, 2015
SEVERAL letters in your column about the admission of students to Adi Cakobau School, Ratu Kadavulevu School and Queen Victoria School have been regrettably, not based on facts but assumptions. The truth is this. Firstly, for decades since their establishment, these schools' only criteria for student entry was based on students achieving a certain minimum aggregate mark in the Fiji Intermediate Examination for entry into their intermediate classes.
Later on when the intermediate classes of Forms 1 and 2 (Classes 7 & 8 or Year 7 and Year 8 ) were removed from these schools, the prescribed entry mark was based on the Secondary School Entrance Examination.
These entry marks I admit, were much higher than those demanded by other intermediate or secondary schools and I can only speak for Adi Cakobau School as I am more familiar with it.
Another criteria was that the student had placed the school as first choice in the application form which all schools sitting these examinations in those days, had to have students fill and send to relevant schools. (Students used to fill the name of the secondary school of their first, second and third choices).
Secondly, for ACS, there was always a set allocation of places for rural based primary school students and whose marks may be slightly lower.
Hence, there had been an in-school policy to facilitate rural based students. This discredits any statement that rural students had been marginalised.
Thirdly, there was never any policy about restricting admission to daughters of ratu and adi.
That some of them ended up there happened because they achieved the required marks in the entry examination.
It must be stated that the removal of all external examinations below the Fiji School Leaving Certificate and the accompanying filling of forms of choice, had brought a great deal of confusion to students and parents who now have to personally go from school to school to seek entry for the new year.
Perhaps, this is what the Ministry of Education should focus on and address.
I feel that the Minister of Education should review the unilateral decision on these schools so as to build peace rather than sow seeds of fear and disunity.
You see, given the way indigenous Fijian people's traditional institutions have been unilaterally dismantled; their language no longer acceptable in Parliament; their identity and land ownership issues being subjected to changes without their due consent, etc: — the indigenous people might feel that this is another part of the bigger plan to totally disempower indigenous peoples of Fiji and make them disappear into oblivion, as a race.
Especially, as these schools had been producing some of the national indigenous leaders of Fiji.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Jasper girls remember Marj Hodge?

Go to the internet to for some interesting comments by Uniting Church people in Australia about their Easter experience in their various churches  - such as Marj Hodge at Melton. 
Marj Hodge – Melton Uniting Church 

Easter is a very important time for me and our church because this is what is crucial in our faith in what we commemorate at Easter – the death and the resurrection of Jesus. The normal program at our church is that on Thursday we have a prayer vigil and members of the church are invited to go and take one hour each and go to the church and pray. We try and make sure there is someone for each hour. In between that is the Maundy Thursday service which is a communion service.
On Good Friday there is usually a service in the morning and then the Easter Sunday service. Our church is involved with a group of churches that put on a community day on Easter Saturday. One church might put on face painting for children or a free sausage sizzle. Our church has been involved with helping children to make something out of wood – a cross or a table or something – that’s our Easter Saturday. It’s meant to be a contribution to the community to say we’re not just about doing something on Easter for ourselves.

QVS RKS and Adi Cakobau schools

from w
I was astonished to read the new guidelines for accepting students for these schools - the children must come from the interior of the islands such as Navosa or the maritime islands such as Ono-i-lau.  Not those who live in Suva or the large towns.  Amazing.  Normally children gain entry through passing an academic test, no matter where they come from.  Now I wonder about Natabua High School  and Labasa College - will the children who live in Lautoka or in Labasa be excluded?
This is from a blog:

Another Fijian institution destroyed

Frank Bainimarama's regime government has taken a machete to another Fijian institution - boarding schools. Adi Cakobau, Ratu Kadavulevu and Queen Victoria Schools will from next year only cater for students from remote areas in a one-eyed plan to level the playing field for Indian students.

All three schools have been prominent for providing quality education and producing great Fijian leaders, many who have gone on to become CEOs, Ministers, Prime Ministers and Presidents of Fiji. They have also produced notable sports players.

But Education Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy says the boarding schools were originally meant to cater for students who hailed from the interior and remote outer islands.
He said lately, this privilege had been abused by students within urban areas whom he referred to as the elite group. "I want to announce today that next year, no boarding space will be given to students from urban areas or the elite in all facilities in the government boarding schools such as QVS, ACS, RKS and the likes. Boarding schools will only be reserved for children that come from the remote outer islands or the interior of our mainland.
Children in urban areas are expected to get their education from the many nearby schools available to them in their areas."
Adi Cakobau School (ACS) was established as a boarding school by the government in 1948 and was named after King Cakobau's grand-daughter. Its English language curriculum included traditional academic subjects, traditional dance, music and crafts. 

Queen Victoria School (QVS) was established in 1906 initially to provide education to the sons of Fijian Chiefs but over the years students have been multiracial.Ratu Kadavulevu School (RKS) is said to be the largest of the three boarding schools. Its students are multiracial, but predominantly Fijian. 

Former students of the three schools have vowed to 'save our schools'. 

And a response from Ro Kepa.

Victims to resist

Nasik Swami
Monday, April 13, 2015  Fiji Times
THE persistent attempts to re-engineer and weaken the iTaukei community is a tabu, says Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa while putting everyone on notice that those indigenous people who feel victimised will resist.
Ro Teimumu was responding to comments made by Education Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy early this month where he announced that Government boarding schools such as Adi Cakobau, Ratu Kadavulevu and Queen Victoria would cater for students from rural schools from next year.
Dr Reddy said lately, this privilege was abused by those who lived in urban areas, whom he referred to as the "elite group".
Ro Teimumu cautioned Dr Reddy to tread carefully when dealing with matters relating to the iTaukei community in Fiji.
"It was one thing to hurl abuse and disrespect to the chiefs and iTaukei community while systematically dismantling their institutions in Fiji through imposed decrees, but it is quite another to plan heavy-handed and unwelcomed reforms into matters involving our children - plans to impose his (Dr Reddy's) will and preferences on ACS, QVS and RKS," she said.
Ro Teimumu said without consultation or proper consideration, Dr Reddy had announced reforms that were creating alarm and anger.
"Most of these reforms would have far reaching implications and consequences for the future of our children and their families.
"Dr Reddy's comments were not only inciteful but it carried with it an underlying tone of arrogance and impertinence, from one, whose journey to prosperity was on the backs of the generosity and good nature of the chiefs and indigenous people of Fiji who allowed their lands and resources to be used by all for the good of Fiji," she claimed.
Ro Teimumu said for the Education Minister to refer to ACS, QVS and RKS as elite schools spoke more about his prejudice then it did about his suitability to head Fiji's Education Ministry.
She said the last time she looked at a dictionary "elite" referred to a group or class of people seen as having most power and influence in a society, especially on account of their wealth or privilege.
In response, Dr Reddy clarified student placement restrictions to Government boarding schools of RKS, QVS and ACS.
"The decision to restrict boarding spaces arose out of lack of space due to overcrowding of the boarding facilities in recent years," he said.
Dr Reddy said at the beginning of every school year, parents from outer islands and maritime turned up to the school to enrol their child only to find that there was no space to accommodate their child.
"Boarding spaces are to be first given to rural and interior students as well as students from maritime areas who are disadvantaged due to the unavailability of a school around their residence.
"Any surplus spaces after this initial placement will then be given to students from urban areas."
He said this move would provide the appropriate space to the disadvantaged and underprivileged students who otherwise might drop out of the school system because of the lack of boarding facilities.
The minister reiterated that apart from the restriction of boarding spaces to first place rural and maritime students, while students from urban areas could still study at these schools as day scholars.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Natural foods versus supermarket foods in Fiji

from w
When it was announced that Fiji children in Grade One were being given free milk and one Weetbix biscuit some people realised that this would reinforce the shift from eating home-grown vegetables to children crying to their parents to buy supermarket breakfast foods.  Now, on World Heath Day, this was re-inforced by a speaker and in a cartoon.  Text (but not the cartoon) is from the Fiji Times Editorial.

Healthy food, healthy body

Fred Wesley
Wednesday, April 08, 2015
THE fact that Fijians are rapidly moving away from organic food consumption and are opting for more chemical-based and processed foods is a matter of concern.
The revelation was shared by the Health and Medical Services Minister Jone Usamate ahead of the World Health Day celebrations yesterday.
World Health Day, he pointed out, is a global health awareness day celebrated every year on April 7 under the sponsorship of the World Health Organization.
"As our food supply becomes increasingly globalised, the need to strengthen food safety systems in and between all countries is becoming more and more evident," Mr Usamate said.
"The international celebration is an opportunity to alert people working in different government sectors, farmers, manufacturers, retailers, health practitioners and consumers about the importance of food safety and the part we all can play in ensuring that everyone feels confident about what they have on their plates."
Understandably, the day is important. As the minister said, it is an opportunity to create some awareness about what we eat, and the impact it will have on our body.
It is when you get to the other bits of his speech that concern is raised.
Especially the bit about studies showing Fijians are not consuming enough fruits and vegetables daily. It is difficult to comprehend this when one considers the fact that we have these in abundance.
"Fijians are increasingly consuming machine-based foods more than land-based foods and drinks. They are moving from organic to chemical-based processed foods. More and more, Fijians are transiting from organic farms to supermarkets," the minister said.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Poor health in Fiji

from w
We are often reading that someone in Fiji has died - younger than expected. It's really sad to know that so many Fiji people die young of diseases that are the consequence of lifestyle - rich food, dinner late at night, lack of exercise, too much sugar, stress.
In the Fiji Times - Monday April 6 is this article.

Dying prematurely

Torika Chandra
Monday, April 06, 2015
NON-communicable diseases, according to the World Health Organization, is not passed from person to person. They are of long duration and generally slow progression. Also known as chronic diseases, NCDs affect all age groups. Though often associated with older age groups, evidence shows that 16 million of all deaths in the world attributed to NCDs occur before the age of 70. Of these "premature" deaths, 82 per cent occur in low — and middle-income countries. Children, adults and the elderly are all vulnerable to the risk factors that contribute to NCDs, whether from unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, exposure to tobacco smoke or the effects of the harmful use of alcohol. Fiji is fast becoming a part of this world NCD statistic.
ALLOW me to begin my focus feature with facts — out of the 6000 people who die in Fiji every year, 5000 die because of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
These are mainly heart attacks and strokes. Alarming? How about this? People in Fiji are dying prematurely, getting sick by the age of 20 and dying at 40 years.
Or that 80 to 85 per cent of Fijians continue to die from either cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes or chronic lung disease.
Or that Fiji records one amputation every 12.6 hours and one in five persons are at a risk of having a stroke.
An even alarming fact which will be sure to knock you off your feet is that Fiji's youngest diabetic patient is a 12-year-old, who suffers from Type 2 Diabetes.
These alarming, but real figures from the Ministry of Health, should be knocking you off your feet.
Enough to make you throw your cigarette packets in the rubbish or straight out for a run or even to the nearest shopping centre to buy healthier foods.
The increase of NCDs in Fiji is due to several factors, mainly because of a rise in urbanisation, an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and the aggressive marketing of foods unnaturally high in fat, salt and sugar.
To make matters worse, people are giving in to these factors and allowing themselves, some even willingly, to be part of an NCD statistic.
Dr Wahid Khan, the chairman of Diabetes Fiji, did not mince his words when he stated last month that unless and until there is public support and will-power, non-communicable diseases will remain a part of Fiji and embedded into our Fijian lifestyle.
"Time has come to fix things before it is too late," Dr Khan said.
He pinpoints the solution to everyone.
"NCDs can be contained if people change their lifestyle by eating and living healthy," Dr Khan said.
"However, this level of transformation can only be achieved through multiple interventions from every layer of our society. "
World Health Organization technical officer Dr Wendy Snowdon, during the Alliance for Healthy Living launch, says States tackling NCDs required a multisectoral approach.
She stressed it was critical to engage the civil society organisations, community groups and community members to bring about a desired change.
"The active participation of civil society organisations, particularly, the participation of grassroots organisations representing people living with NCDs, could assist in formulating public health policies and legislations which would assist individuals to reach the highest standard of health and wellbeing."
Dr Khan adds time is of the essence as NCD was already suffocating Fiji and stealing the country of its future.
"We believe that the opportunity for health begins in our families, neighbourhoods, schools and workplaces, therefore, we encourage everyone to take charge and to bring about changes to their lifestyles to arrest the problem of NCDs."
* Minimise or restrict consumption of sugar sweetened beverages;
* Eat more local seasonal fruits;
* Reduce smoking and alcohol use;
* Cut down on salt and fatty food intake; and
* Improve physical activity.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Getting out into the streets

from w
It is good to see that for Palm Sunday one congregation decided to go out into the streets rather than stay inside a building. Butt Street - Wesley - had their children waving palm branches as they walked through the streets of Suva.  Palm Sunday in many places these days is a day for the religious and secular world to have peace marches, protests, such as in Melbourne yesterday. The issue this year was to protest about the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers in Manus Island and Nauru.

Members of the Wesley City Mission Church in Suva started their Palm Sunday celebration with a march through Suva City – from the Flea Market to Ratu Sukuna Park. Children – in their white dresses and boys in black pocket Sulu and white suits – marched through the streets singing hymns. Church members filled the seats at Ratu Sukuna Park, as children took the stage to conduct morning service. They (children) recited Bible verses, performed action songs, Bible reading, poetry, prayers, and choir singing.

The Methodist Church in Fiji’s divisional superintendent, Reverend Jeremaia Waqainabete said, “The programme was run with the idea that we would bring the children out of the church and as part of their awareness that church services are not confined within the church. “It is important that we hear the cries of our children and introduce them to the wider world so they can recognise and acknowledge that they do have a part to play towards the church,” Reverend Waqainabete said.

Pictures of the protest march in Melbourne on Palm Sunday 2015.

With their theme ‘Hail Jesus! King of Peace and Salvation, Rev Waqainabete said children needed to be well looked after and be treated with respect.

Father Barr's letter

from w
Here's a good letter from the Fiji Times March 30  - concerning taking a sentence from the Bible that implies that leaders are put there by God.  I agree with Father Barr that sometimes we do need to object, protest, think about the boundaries of leadership and that not always should we 'obey'. We need to make careful assessment using ethics as our criteria and speak up when there is injustice in society.


| Saturday, March 28, 2015
MANY years ago the late Reverend Paula Niukula in his little book The Three Pillars clarified that the Fijian translation of "authorities" in Romans 13:1 as turaga had been misleading because it was the same word used for traditional chiefs and this had led to a misrepresentation of the biblical text as referring specifically to chiefs.
Savenaca Vakaliwaliwa (Fiji Times, March 21) repeats this assessment. However, Savenaca then goes on to restrict the term "authorities" to the present government and claims that "all Bible-believing Christians" should accept that the currently democratically elected government is the authority ordained by God.
The translation from Today's English Version is even stronger than the one he provides: "Everyone must obey the state authorities; for no authority exists without God's permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God.
"Whoever opposes the existing authority opposes what God has ordered ..." A similar text can be found in Titus 3:1.
However, every Christian should know that the biblical message must be read as a whole and no one text should be taken outside the total context of the Bible.
It is well known that the Old Testament prophets and Jesus himself stood up to the authorities of their day when justice and right demanded it.
As the US biblical scholar, Marcus Borg (2006) states: "Much of the Bible protests the injustice of political and economic systems. Indeed, perhaps half of the biblical message is political in this sense. Moses, the prophets, Jesus, Paul and the Book of Revelations protest against inhuman systems of domination and advocate a very different vision of life under God."
He goes on to describe the classical prophets of ancient Israel as "God-intoxicated voices of protest against human suffering imposed by the powerful and the wealthy."
Also it is interesting to read the Book of Wisdom ch. 6: 1-11 to get another biblical perspective on "authorities".
Over the years Christians from various churches as well as members of other religions have challenged the "authorities" over issues such as slavery, women's right to vote, apartheid, poverty, civil rights of black Americans, corruption, just wages, inequality, economic systems and various labour issues. They have helped to change the world to be a better place - more in accord with the way God wants it to be.
So, while our present Government is doing a lot of good things which we can rightly appreciate and be proud of, I believe we cannot give them unqualified support based solely on Romans 13:1.
I believe it would be naïve to think that Christians must support any government simply because it happens to be in power.
I believe it is incumbent on the church in its prophetic role to hold up to the scrutiny of the gospel and human rights any government or regime under which its children must live, and to evaluate and, if necessary, criticise the actions and policies of that government.
I believe the church must always be the conscience of the nation and fulfil its prophetic role in society.
As our own Prime Minister himself acknowledged in January 2014: "Fijians are a religious people and our Government must depend on the people of all faiths to be our moral compass - not to impose their religious practices through law but to ensure that government's actions respect the guiding principles of all faiths."
Even from a non-religious point of view I believe representative democracy (whereby we elect our government) must always be accompanied by participatory democracy (whereby the people hold their government to account).
Otherwise we do not really have true democracy.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Palm Sunday and children

from w
In Fiji today on Palm Sunday the children usually dress in white and lead the worship in the Methodist Churches.  In Australia they don't have Children's Sunday but at Altona Meadows/Laverton some of the Islander children still dressed in white.

And this year:  March 29 2015 - at Vatuadova village near Labasa, and at Delana, Levuka. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Housing for the poor

from w
Housing for the poor in Fiji – Many people still live in shacks made of cast-offs but projects are going ahead to rehouse some people. One in the Koroipita project out of Lautoka, the initiative of Rotary and Peter Drysdale, and another by the Fiji Government and Father Kevin Barr is on the former Jittu estate and called Lagilagi.