‘School Closure Must Be Last Option’

The heads of several religious organisations say closure of schools must be the last option. And they say there should be dialogue between stakeholders on education in faith-based schools. Their
20 Jan 2019 10:00
‘School Closure Must Be Last Option’
L-R: Methodist Church president Reverend Epineri Vakadewavosa, Fiji Muslim League president Hafizud Khan and President of the Shree Sanatan Dharm Pratinidhi Sabha Sarju Prasad.

The heads of several religious organisations say closure of schools must be the last option.

And they say there should be dialogue between stakeholders on education in faith-based schools.

Their comments came in the wake organisations say closure of a threat by the Catholic Church schools  if their demand for only Catholics to head their 19 secondary and 44 primary schools are not met.

While all faith heads stressed the importance of faith and religious values they are calling for dialogue to resolve the issue.


Methodist Church

Methodist Church President Reverend Epineri Vakadewavosa says the Government needs to engage in honest and sincere dialogue with leaders of faith-based schools.

He said the stand taken by the Catholic Church shows how serious the matter is to them.

“The church needs to discuss it, but the main thing is to have dialogue with the Ministry of Education. A very sincere and honest, deep-thinking dialogue is the best way forward,” Reverend Vakadewavosa said.

“It is a very serious matter. Closing down schools is the last option. I think the Catholic Church is showing the Government how serious it feels about the situation. It is really important likewise to other faith-based schools.

“The ministry,the permanent secretary should come to us and have a dialogue, we should be meeting face-to-face rather than imposing. Those days are gone for imposing. We are living in a new day and age. Dialogue is the way forward. Talanoa.”


Anglican Church

The Vicar-General of the Anglican Church in Fiji, Reverend Orisi Vuki, said they support the Catholic Church and they need to be given recognition.

He said it was important to have discussions on the matter, however closing schools should not be an option.


Shree Sanatan Dharm
Pratinidhi Sabha
President of the Shree Sanatan Dharm, Pratinidhi Sabha Sarju Prasad said religious values are important and dialogue between the parties concerned would be the best way forward.

However, he strongly believes that promotions should be on merit.

When asked if he had any preference on school heads that should lead Sanatan schools, Mr Prasad said they have had principals from other religious denominations and it has worked well with them.

“I have no problem with principals of other faiths leading our schools. It is best and as far as I am concerned the Constitution is paramount,” Mr Prasad said.

“Secondly promotion should be on merit, but as far as possible there should be dialogue between the organisations without breaching the Constitution.

“There should be room for discussion between the parties but as far as I am concerned promotion should be meritorious and we must be mindful of not breaking the law of the land.”


Fiji Muslim League

Fiji Muslim League President Hafizud Khan said the suggestion to close all Catholic schools was sad.

“I am sure they can still have dialogue with the Government. I am sure there is a way where they can find some way to find some peaceful means of doing things.”


Seventh-day Adventist Church

The Seventh-day Adventist Church says for the 2019 academic year it has taken the stand to privatise Navesau Adventist High School in Tailevu, one of the two boarding high schools it owns and operates.

The church now pays for the salaries of teachers and ancillary staff, and accepts the fact that there is no grant (FEG) provided by the Ministry of Education.

“We privatised Navesau because of our faith that is based on the truth of God’s word, the Bible,” said church general secretary Pastor Joe Talemaitoga.

“The Seventh-day Adventist Church supports the call made by the head of the Catholic Church recently to include faith as a criteria in the selection of leaders for faith- based schools.”

Ro Teimumu Kepa

Opposition spokesperson for Education Ro Teimumu Kepa intends to propose through her party parliamentary caucus that the “Opposition makes an urgent approach to the Minister of Education to seek solutions.

“I intend to propose that the minister, and I as the Shadow Minister for Education, sponsor a bipartisan gathering of all education partners to study the questions that concern each of them,” Ro Teimumu said.

“The root cause of the current impasse is the Government’s refusal to allow the church to appoint Catholic school principals. The church adheres to this as part of an enduring effort to protect and promote the Catholic character of a Catholic school,” she said.

Government Comment

The Government is yet to comment on the catholic church threat. Education Minister Rosy Akbar is reported to be overseas.

Edited by Epineri Vula


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