Budget 2019

Fiji Budget 2019: Free Education For Those Who Need It

This is, no doubt, one policy which has been a major breakthrough in ensuring our young Fijians do not drop out of schools because they cannot afford it.
21 May 2019 18:11
Fiji Budget 2019: Free Education For Those Who Need It
Students of Suva Muslim Primary School. Photo: Simione Haravanua

Modifying some of the policies that the Bainimarama-Government and the FijiFirst-Government had introduced and reintroducing those would be a step towards Fiji having a responsible and tighter budget for 2019-2020.

One such policy is the free education policy. This is, no doubt, one policy which has been a major breakthrough in ensuring our young Fijians do not drop out of schools because they cannot afford it.

In fact, this was also highlighted in the Bureau of Statistics report in the past year that school drop-out numbers because of financial reasons were at an all-time low.

During the last budget announcement, the Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had highlighted that any parent who wishes to pay school fees are welcome to do so.

But, we need to do more than that now.

Government has already increased the income tax threshold, provides other social benefits and has taken a major financial load off parents’ shoulders by providing Tertiary Education Loan Scheme.

Now, Fiji would do well by doing a means test. For example, perhaps if the household income of a family is more than $60,000 per annum, parents should be asked to pay a nominal fee for their primary school and secondary school going children.

That fee could be collected over the academic year and forwarded to the Ministry of Economy and redistributed from the Ministry for various projects.

Fijians today are in a better place, with better paying jobs and there is a raise in the number of upper middle-class families.

A small fee of $30 per term per child or something similar will go a long way.

The past 13 years of free education and other benefits have no doubt given Fijian families a little more in their pockets to invest or use for luxury goods.

As the world prepares for economic downturn, it is only prudent that Fiji too takes steps to prepare for any ripple effects.

Focus for the next two years needs to be resetting the economy with a responsible budget.

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