Raising Our Children For Racial Harmony

Introduction It is my pleasure to address you all on the occasion of “National Culture Day” today, as dedicated by our Ministry. We note that the overarching 2030 Agenda for
16 Sep 2016 07:24
Raising Our Children For Racial Harmony
Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts Mahendra Reddy.


It is my pleasure to address you all on the occasion of “National Culture Day” today, as dedicated by our Ministry.

We note that the overarching 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Education Goal (SDG 4) commits us to: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. This global commitment endorses that education is a fundamental human right and that is the basis for ensuring the recognition of other rights.

Education is essential for human existence, economic fulfilment, sustainable development and world peace. Similarly, education is also important to the recognition, acceptance and promotion of culture, particularly for a country like Fiji which has so much diversity. The rich values, beliefs and practices of different groups of people has been a phenomena world-wide for ages. It provides us all an opportunity to harness from this rich diversity for future, growth, peace and prosperity.

Fiji is marvelled for its diverse culture and ethnicity. The different ethnic groups with their rich culture and traditions, add beauty to our already thriving country. The ancient religion, its origin and development over the years needs as such to be preserved so that our future generations know their identity and continue to acknowledge their past.

The Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts realises the vital role it plays to safeguard, promote and appreciate the cultural diversity that exists in our beloved nation and as such, has mooted the observance of National Culture Day in all schools across Fiji.

This annual event has been scheduled for the 16th of September to be marked every year.

This year the theme for the National Culture Day celebrations is “Celebrating Fiji’s Cultural Diversity”.

The Fijian Education system has made some remarkable progress over the past two years with various positive reforms and transformations brought about to attain excellence in the quality of education provided.

With the prime focus on academic achievements, the educator sector has also made in-roads in promoting cultural enlightenment amongst the students.


Significance of celebrating National Culture Day in schools

The honourable Prime Minister, honourable Bainimarama has made it clear that the modern Fiji is one where all Fijians will unite to move the country forward.

There is no room for any racial separation which had plagued our country in the past.

For this united approach to be fully realised, education is mandatory as through educational progress we will progress in our thinking, understanding and planning for the future.

With education, cultural empowerment is also vital to make people value each other’s existence, accommodate and build reverence and move forward together without any discrimination, prejudice, discernment and intolerance.

I, in the capacity as the Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts have a vision for our Fijian Education system whereby we intend to achieve academic excellence through accessibility, gender equality, fairness, lifelong learning and cultural and values empowerment.

Schools are the ‘hub’ of information networking and without doubt the most vital link to information transfusion and we intend to blend cultural enlightenment of students via schools.

As such, observing Culture Day in schools will bolster the already set cultural educational programmes in schools. It assists to:


(i)   Create identification

First and foremost, our children must be taught to identify with their culture and understand it in order to accept it.

They must be able to form key links with their own cultural beliefs and how best they can use it to attain success.

They must understand that education is about worthwhile learning and that it should not compromise important aspects of their culture.


(ii)  Bond people

Apart from identifying with their own culture, all children must understand and appreciate the important contributions of the different ethnic groups to the well-being of our nation.

However, to deeply comprehend this understanding, the children must first learn to know the culture and values of the different ethnic groups.

A school, as such, assists students to interact with other students of different ethnic groups and this mixing supports their learning of different cultures.

This creates a much needed bonding between the students and leads to national peace.

For example, when students learn about the traditional Fijian Meke and its origins and its importance to the iTaukei people, they gain greater respect and appreciation for it whenever it will be performed. Similar behaviour can be attained when children learn about the iTaukei ceremonies of welcome.

They have seen this ceremony performed on various occasions but understand very little on what is going on.

With Culture Day, we will be focusing on passing this knowledge to all children so that they are well versed with the cultural functions of the major ethnic groups in Fiji.

These include the festivals they celebrate, the kind of clothing they wear, the food they eat and most importantly, the cultural values they adhere to.

Similarly, we want to teach our children important cultural features such as, the ‘fasting observed by Muslims’, what is ‘halal food and its importance’, importance of ‘hawan’ in the Hindu culture and many other aspects of key cultural groups in Fiji.

Another example is to teach students the difference between the firewalking ceremony done by the iTaukei people of Beqa and the firewalking done by the Indians.

Important aspects such as why some Hindus are vegetarian on some days; why some Christians pray on Saturdays and why Islam faith people pray on Friday must be talked about with students with the main aim of enriching their knowledge.

When students will understand what is happening, they will learn from it and associate it positively with their own cultural ideologies. We want all Fijian children to understand the basic features of the main cultures of Fiji and thereby create a nation where people live happily by respecting each other.


(iii)  Set direction in life; establishes principles in life

Moreover, children in the 21st century are now getting prone to habits and routines which does not give them time to reflect on their cultural knowledge or even take part in their cultural events and practices.             With the celebration of a National Culture Day, we will give an opportunity for students to reflect on their attitude towards their culture and make positive transformations.


(iv)   Diverse Cultural enrichments gives birth to ‘culture of acceptance and peace’

Most importantly, we are now using schools as a Centre to create a ‘culture’ in itself and that is acceptance.

By taking a day out to celebrate the diversity of cultures in Fiji, brings the children together as a closely knit family.

This family develops their own sense of values and culture which creates lifelong connections. These connections are important ingredients for long term peace and stability.



The Theme: “Celebrating Fiji’s Cultural Diversity”

Our beautiful paradise is blessed with cultural diversity. During the National Culture Day, we intend to celebrate this diversity as a family with the most important people and that is the children.

We want to make them realise that our nation has got tremendous richness of cultural information which they all can have access to. By celebrating the varied cultural aspects of different ethnic groups in schools, we are in fact making students aware of what is around them and appreciate its existence.


Other initiatives of the ministry to promote culture

The Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts in its quest to deliver quality education has also taken into consideration the importance of imparting our history, culture and values to all Fijians. We are embarking on a plan to educate our children and all Fijians on our Heritage.

By including knowledge of Fiji’s history in the curriculum at different levels in primary and secondary schools, the Ministry intends to achieve more awareness and appreciation of the past from the present generation.

At the beginning of this year, we launched the dream project to digitise our Museum exhibits.

We may not be able to bring all Fijians to our Museum but we can take the digital museum to wherever they are.

The cultural artefacts, photographs and information are now loaded on line and people can have access to it.

This has been done due to the fact that digitisation is a global phenomenon and we want all Fijians to be at the forefront of these transformations.

We have also regularly organised Museum Open Day for the people so that they can learn about our heritage and the past.

Also, we have invited various cultural organisations such as the Korean Peace Group to have displays and programmes related to cultural aspects.

In our curriculum, we have implemented Conversational Classes for students where they learn the I-Taukei and the Hindi language.                   What we have done is that we have blended cultural aspects to the languages being taught so that while the students learn the language, they also understand the various cultural practices.


Concluding remarks

Fiji is a unique country where our children are raised in multicultural settings.

They learn about other cultures, appreciate other values and accommodate other cultures to be much better rounded and accomplished citizens.

We need to teach our children the important roles that different ethnic groups play whilst contributing to the nation’s economy, peace and prosperity.

In the contemporary world, cultural understanding is critical for peace.

Celebration of cultural events marks an important aspect of our education system given the diverse ethnic composition of most of our schools.

Cultural interaction and integration serves as a solid foundation on which educational achievements can be built upon and the Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts fully commits to this initiative in schools.

The Government of the day has set a vision for Fiji.

The vision to see, that all racial groups live in eternal harmony and unite to bring prosperity to Fiji.

Celebrating Culture Day will go a long way in instilling core cultural knowledge in our students and thus, strengthening our focus on peace.


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