One of the prominent new policies in SODELPA’s draft manifesto is that the party will make primary and secondary education compulsory if it wins the next general election. It will
15 Mar 2018 10:00
SODELPA’s draft manifesto cover page.

One of the prominent new policies in SODELPA’s draft manifesto is that the party will make primary and secondary education compulsory if it wins the next general election.

It will also continue the free school fees and free bus fare schemes which were introduced by the FijiFirst Government.

Obviously, the compulsory education move is designed to ensure that all eligible children should be attending school. At the moment, voluntary education, it is understood, has failed to achieve this. It is not the responsibility of the Government, but of parents and guardians to send their children to school.

When education becomes compulsory it must be accompanied by a relevant law that legitimises it and gives it teeth and the enabling environment to make enforcement effective.

The other challenge, of course, comes from libertarians and the advocates of human rights. The question is: Is compulsory education a breach of human rights that relates to the freedom of individuals to choose?

How does this relate to the right to education – that every person in this country enjoys this right to education? When children are not at school, because education is voluntary they forfeit this right. Unless of course their absence is due to parental or guardian negligence or dereliction of duty.

Under a compulsory education law a punishment or penalty is an integral part. How this is going to be spelt out will depend on the legislature.

In simple terms, those who flout the law will be penalised or punished. That means if a student is absent those responsible will be held accountable.


Where do home schools stand in all these?

In some countries home school is allowed. It is the choice of parents to send their children to school or home school them.

Currently, the FijiFirst Government spends millions of dollars on education initiatives to ensure that no one is left behind. When children fail to take advantage of them, the resources are a waste.

It would be interesting to see the outcome of an audit of the number of students who drop out of primary and secondary schools.

The other interesting feature of SODELPA’s education policy is that the Tertiary Education Loan Scheme (TELS) will be reviewed.

It would be prudent for SODELPA to consult with tertiary students before it goes any further because the current TELS is meeting their needs, accommodation, food and transport.

Would its proposed new policy be able to look after the students in the same way?

Now the Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has announced in Parliament that TELS will be reviewed to make loan repayments easier for graduates entering the job market.

The SODELPA manifesto says there will be one Fiji government scholarship under one scholarship committee.

This single scheme will reinstate the old Public Service Commission Scholarship Unit, FAB (Fijian Affairs Board) Scholarship Unit and the Fiji Multi-Ethnic Scholarship Unit.


Other features:

-All scholarship holders will be bonded to work in Fiji for an allocated number of years relative to the term of the scholarship

-There will be a partial scholarship scheme on a one third, two third basis

-Re-introduce one third contribution by students and two thirds by Government partial scholarship scheme; the one third contribution by students will be in the form of interest-free loans

-Merit will be the principal criterion under each scholarship unit

-Overseas scholarship schemes will be based on Fiji’s human resources development needs.

-Abolish the free milk programme and look at the option of lunch packs on a needs basis or divert funds for school canteens

-Provide tuition-free education for primary and secondary school children and for special education schools

-Provide financial grants to meet costs of textbooks and stationery

-Provide free education for Early Childhood Education (ECE) in all villages and communities

-Provide ECE teachers with a salary comparative to primary and secondary school teachers

-Continue the school bus fare concessions; the scheme will be reviewed to remove abuse and mismanagement and to ensure proper targeting

-Make a concerted effort to address the high failure rates in mathematics and science subjects

-Upgrade the role and function of the Higher Education Commission in ensuring that sponsored colleges and universities reach a minimum level of excellence and quality to justify their funding.



A SODELPA Government will allocate $11 million per year in the first three years and $8 million thereafter for, among other projects,

-Establishment of Sports and Community Centres (SWC) at strategic locations complete with club houses, training facilities including gymnasiums, resident coaches and game facilities for mass sports. Centres in urban areas will also have nurseries for vegetables to be distributed to all families.

Space and facility will be provided at the centres for participating national sporting bodies.

(Tomorrow- Health and Economy)





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