Opinion

Nemani Delaibatiki: Are They Trying To Turn A Kindergarten Into A Fortress?

When the building was completed about two weeks ago and ready to be opened, the Education Ministry informed the committee one day before the event that the kindergarten would not be open because it had not met the compliance requirements.
03 Feb 2020 13:21
Nemani Delaibatiki: Are They Trying To Turn A Kindergarten Into A Fortress?
The newly constructed kindergarten in Lokia, Rewa.

The rigid scrutiny imposed on the small rural community kindergarten in Lokia, Rewa, seems bizarre.

There have been so many twists and turns in this drama that it is quickly turning into a circus.

The latest episode is a new set of compliance demands that included ripping off the roof and installing new reinforcement.

That is a right royal blindsider that has destroyed whatever is left in the tank in terms of patience and faith for the people. They are deflated and demoralised that a simple community initiative seems to have been turned into an “experiment to build a fortress” to stand up to a powerful category six or stronger cyclone.

But this kindergarten is not built as an evacuation centre. It will only be used for four hours a day in the morning by 20 children. It won’t even be used as an evacuation centre.

When the building was completed about two weeks ago and ready to be opened, the Education Ministry informed the committee one day before the event that the kindergarten would not be open because it had not met the compliance requirements.

But where was the ministry at the beginning and throughout the construction phase?

It was present during the presentation of the $20,000 cheque from the donor, the Chinese Embassy in Suva at the embassy. A ministry official received the cheque with the Assistant Roko Tui Rewa on behalf of the Lokia people, who had applied to the embassy for assistance.

The ministry was even invited to the groundbreaking, but the official contacted said he had other engagements.

At no time during the construction was the site visited by a ministry official to check whether the volunteers building the kindergarten were complying with the requirements.

The ministry had a copy of the project proposal and if its officers had read it they would have detected the deficiencies and raised the alarm. But there was no word until one day before the planned opening.

They inspected the building and gave a list of compliance demands before the kindergarten could open.

In desperation, project spokesperson Joe Vesikara phoned Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and requested his help.

The PM stepped in and said his office would meet the cost of the remaining work.

Now, the kindergarten has been slapped again with a new list of compliance issues. When the people asked who would finance them, they were allegedly told the PM’s office would and that he would not open it unless the changes were done. Now, the people are wondering what next.

In hindsight, all these should have been sorted out much earlier.

This experience can discourage people from undertaking community initiatives in partnership with the Government. The Government cannot do everything so it needs initiatives like this to keep the wheels of development turning.

No one is disputing Government’s efforts to build more sturdy structures that are cyclone proof.

But the way the ministry has done this in Lokia is simply unacceptable.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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