Nabala na Turaga na Tui Nakasa,
Teachers and School Children,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

I’m delighted to be here with you all on my first day in Kadavu to officially handover these desks, chairs, beds and mattresses to the deserving students of Kavala Bay Primary School. My first stop on what will be a very busy couple of days opening development projects all across Kadavu.

Fiji has enjoyed tremendous success over the past ten years, both at home through our record economic growth and abroad as a respected advocate for Pacific Islands and small island states the world over. That success has been borne out of my Government’s steadfast commitment to building a new and better Fiji, but none of it would be possible without the sweat and effort the Fijian people give to our nation every day.

We owe our unprecedented progress and development to every Fijian, and it is my Government’s duty to make sure the benefits of that progress are spread as far and widely as possible. To ensure that no matter where in Fiji you call home, you can rest assured that your Government is working hard to reach you, to give you access to essential services and reliable infrastructure, and – as we are making sure of today– ensure that your children have the resources they need to be cared for and properly educated.

Today, I am very pleased to handover 50 desks, 50 chairs and 50 double bunkbeds equipped with 100 mattresses. Brand new equipment worth a total of nearly $44,000 and that will replace furniture that wasn’t of the quality and condition of which your children are entitled.

For our students here at Kavala Primary, receiving this new high-quality equipment sends a very strong message. It says that my Government – that the Fijian people – care deeply about your success and are prepared to invest in your future. That we believe you deserve the best we can afford to give, we believe you are capable of doing well and we believe you will build an even better Fiji when it is your turn to inherit this great nation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Seeing the smiling faces of all our students here today, and sharing in your community’s optimism for all they have yet to achieve, serves as a reminder for me personally of everything my Government is working so hard to build and protect. Because – as every Pacific Islander knows – our way of life and our future are currently under siege from a threat over which we have little control: the rising seas and severe weather events caused by climate change.

Last year, I spent many days abroad encouraging all nations of the world to change the wasteful and irresponsible behaviour that is warming our planet and causing severe weather events. And our efforts did not go unnoticed, as Fiji is assuming the Presidency of the 23rd Session of the Conference of Parties, known as COP 23, which is the governing body of the United Nations negotiations between countries to deal with climate change.

So over the course of the next year, I will be championing our cause directly to the world, and I will be taking the stories, experiences and concerns of the Fijian people with me. So I look forward to speaking with all of you about what can be done for your community to adapt to our changing climate.
I will be fighting for the future of the people of Kadavu, the future of every Fijian and the future of every citizen of vulnerable low-lying nations around the world. Because this is our collective struggle. It is we who are on the frontlines of climate-related catastrophe – the storms, rising seas and droughts we know all too well. And I am certain that it is our voices and our effort that will spare this world from the worst effects of climate change.

But in the midst of this great effort, we can still find time to celebrate our small victories. And today, let us celebrate that the young people of Kavala can now attend their classes in the comfort of their new desks and chairs and our boarders can head to school each day well-rested from their new beds and mattresses.

Thank you for the warm welcome you have afforded me and my delegation. I have very high hopes for what your students will go on to accomplish. And I ask that all of our students care for this new equipment and respect the big investment my Government has made in your education.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.