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Principal Claims He was Forced Out of a School Because of Religion

Principal Claims He was Forced Out of a School Because of Religion
ecretary for Communication in the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma Reverend James Bhagwan
August 20
14:35 2017

A school principal, who is a practising Hindu, yesterday described how he lasted just one year in a Christian school because he refused to be converted.

“They told me they had just hired me for a year because there were no Christian candidates and that I must leave within the year unless I change my religion,” he said.

He requested that his identity be withheld because he needed to get permission from the Ministry of Education first before he could speak.

The Christian school is not a Methodist school.

After he left the Christian school, he joined a Muslim school where he spent five years without any hassles.

His comments come in the wake of the controversial request by the Methodist Church that it wanted heads of all its schools to be Methodists.

He said: “The request is akin to the practice of extremism. Religion and faith should not ever be the judge for a leader.

“Kids are innocent and they need the best leaders available to them.

“The Muslim school did not ask what my religion was. They just welcomed me with open arms and I spent good years there.”

Now he is the principal of another non-Christian school and has five years left before retirement.

“I joined the Christian school on a one year contract. Mid-way through my tenure, I was told they wanted a Christian to lead the school. My contract would not be renewed unless I was converted.”

Secretary for Communication in the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma Reverend James Bhagwan said appointing Methodist heads of institutions in church-run schools in Fiji was part of the Church’s moral and holistic educational framework.

He said the implication that the proposed policy was preferential towards members of the Methodist faith lacked careful thought.

“In the recent past, the Government has called on religious institutions to address the moral issues in our societies by strengthening our moral education and that’s what we are responding to; this is our framework,” added Rev Bhagwan.

“We need our heads to be able to deliver that because they have an understanding of that and are able to perform the role.

“For us knowledge-based society is not enough. We want a society that has moral integrity, as well as knowledge. That’s why we want teachers who can understand and deliver that to our students.”

However, the proposed change in hiring policy has put the church at loggerheads with the Government.

Acting Education Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said: “It is not constitutionally possible to accede to the request from the Methodist Church in Fiji for all principals and head teachers in schools run by the church to be members of the Methodist Church.

“As mandated in Sections 123 and 127 of the Constitution, recruitment and promotion within the Fijian civil service are based solely on merit.

“Government will not allow for discrimination on the grounds of religious adherence as it is contrary to our supreme law, the Fijian Constitution.”

This, Rev Bhagwan hinted, could see the church shift towards full privatisation.

As well as leadership appointments, discussion at the Methodist Education Workshop concluded that no Methodist church run school would participate in non-Methodist religious festivals such as Diwali and Eid. There are 35 Methodist schools in Fiji, with 17 Primary, 16 Secondary School and 2 vocational schools.

 

Feedback:  sheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj

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