Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s Speech at the Opening of Taveuni Secondary School

Ni Sa Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

Of all the many events on my current tour of the Northern Division, I’ve been especially looking forward to this – to celebrate the opening of the South Taveuni Secondary School.

Nothing is more important to me as your Prime Minister than to ensure that our young people get the head start in life that a proper education provides.

Every one of you students are the building blocks of the new Fiji we are striving to achieve – one based on equality and merit.

We want to give you the opportunity to acquire knowledge, gain new skills and prepare you for the challenges of a modern world that is much more competitive than it was when I was sitting in your place.

Just as no-one owes you a living, no-one owes Fiji a living.  We have to all work harder and be smarter, to see opportunities when they arise and seize them, as individuals and as a nation.

The role of Government is to provide you with as many opportunities as we can – not only with schools like this but with skills training after you leave school to best equip you for the workforce.

Some of you will have the ambition to go to university. Work hard to pursue that dream. We are here to help poorer students who previously couldn’t fulfil that dream with our new 2.2-million dollar Tertiary Education Loan Scheme.

I am currently looking at revamping the current loan and scholarship schemes so that any Fijian who wants a tertiary education can get one. So no Fijian student who gains university entrance will be prevented from taking up their place because they can’t afford it.

But apart from becoming teachers, doctors and a whole range of other professional roles, there are lots of other worthwhile jobs for people who don’t go on to university.

Fiji badly needs more skilled trades people, so much so that I want you all to know that I believe a plumber or an electrician is as important to the country as a doctor or any other professional.

That is why the Government has embarked on a major program with the Fiji National University to train a new generation of trades people.

The same goes for farmers, who are the backbone of our country and need better training in farming methods to achieve our vision of Fiji becoming self sufficient in food production.

I recently launched a new program – also through the Fiji National University – to train a new generation of farmers. Many of the young people in the first intake come from poor families. So it was very inspirational to see them embrace the opportunity they’d been given. Their enthusiasm proves that poverty doesn’t have to be a barrier to success.

So I urge all of you to strive to fulfil your dreams through better education and grasp the opportunities my Government is providing.

Of course, your journey is in the here and now. And I am grateful lto everyone who has had a hand in the construction and establishment of  the South Taveuni Secondary School.

The school draws its pupils from fifteen communities along the Vuna Road, including Vatuwiri, Nalovo, Kanacea, Ura Estate, Navaca, Qarawalu and Waioboa.

The feeder schools are the four Primary Institutions of Navakawau Catholic School, Vuna District, Salialevu Primary and South Taveuni. The parents of the children there will be relieved that they don’t have to travel nearly as far now for their secondary education.

For the first time, secondary education is being brought to your doorstep. So I urge all of the residents of South Taveuni  not to use the excuse of distance or isolation to avoid sending your children to high school.

 

Of course, funding for the construction for the school has come from the Ministry of Education, which is also providing $198-thousand this year for a new science laboratory.

But any school is only as good as the community around it and the support it gets from teachers, parents, local businesses and the students themselves.

To the staff here, I say: Be good role models. Fire the imaginations of your pupils. Open up a world of possibilities for them in the new Fiji and beyond our shores. Encourage them to be good citizens. Teach them well and care for them, especially the more vulnerable.

To the 171 students here, I say:  Care for each other.  Respect your teachers and listen to their advice. Make good use of the new buildings and facilities. Keep them in good order for yourselves and future generations here. Take pride in your school and strive to develop a school spirit, of teamwork and healthy competition in the classroom and on the sports field.

You can feel proud to be the pioneering students of South Taveuni Secondary School. In future years – maybe when your own children are here – you can say “I was the first” and together, we began to build a reputation for excellence.

Good schools are built gradually and that is what is happening here. At the moment, you have forms two, three and four. I urge you to work hard to achieve our aim to have level seven by 2016.

To the School Management, parents, guardians and the South Taveuni community, you should feel proud of your achievement. Because building this school is an important part of building our nation, of providing opportunities and fulfilling dreams.

We all need to work together, to be more considerate of each other as citizens, to see ourselves as equals, to treat people on their merits instead of which family they happen to come from. And we also need to be more patriotic, to take pride in being Fijian, which is what we now all are.

Once again, thank you for your efforts and your contribution to education and the nation as a whole. May God bless you all and especially the students and staff of the South Taveuni Secondary School.

I now take great pride myself in officially declaring the school open.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.