Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
I’m delighted to be with you all today to launch a landmark initiative to improve the health of our children – the Free Milk Program for Year One students at schools throughout Fiji.
It’s a wonderful occasion in the life of our nation. And first of all, I want to express my appreciation for the traditional welcome you have given me and my delegation.
With us here today are not only the students of the Nakelo District School, but children from Visama Sanatan, Nuku District School, Ratu Veikoso Primary School, Kaba District School, Nasemila Primary School and Daku Primary School.
You Year One students are among more than 20,000 children of your class who will benefit from the Free Milk Program across Fiji.
We are building healthy bodies in this first year of your school lives to help build healthy minds. To enable you to benefit fully from the education revolution, we are pursuing to make you smarter and turn Fiji into a clever country.
My Government promised through the FijiFirst manifesto that we would provide this milk from the start of the school year. It has taken a bit longer than we thought but we have been determined to get the program exactly right for the sake of every year one child – no matter where they live – and here it is.
My Fellow Fijians,
Not every Fijian child is privileged at home to enjoy the benefit of a glass of milk a day. But for our Year One students, those days are over. In this critical first year of school, we are giving them a nutritional boost to strengthen their bodies and it doesn’t matter who they are or where they come from. Every Year, One student benefits.
As with our free education program for all students in primary and secondary schools, no longer is a child’s family circumstances the determining factor in whether he or she receives adequate nutrition in the first year of primary school or gets the best possible start in life.
Whether your parents are well off or struggling, you are all getting the best possible chance to have both a healthy life and a good education. And from where I stand as Prime Minister, nothing that my Government has ever done is more noble. Because by building healthy bodies and healthy minds, we are building a healthier and smarter nation for the benefit of every Fijian now and in the years to come.
I’m especially delighted to announce that as well as a free glass of milk a day, each Class One child will also be given a serve of Weetbix a day, thanks to the CJ Patel Group and Fiji Dairy Limited. They are also very generously providing you with your very own bowl and spoon. I wish to thank the CJ Patel Group of Companies and Fiji Dairy Limited who have partnered with my Government for all the hard work it has put in to deliver this massive logistic undertaking and have gone the extra mile to ensure that all class one students receive a healthy meal every morning. I also wish to, in particular pay tribute to former Managing Director, Mr. Sandip Patel, who recently passed away, for passionately sharing and giving meaning to this vision. Our big Vinaka vakalevu.
As many of you know, Weetbix is a nutritious breakfast cereal that is high in fibre and low in sugar. And it contains many of the vitamins and minerals that young people also need to give them energy and the best possible start to the day.
One Weetbix and a 250 millilitre packet of milk every school day is a tremendous boost to the health and well-being of our Year One children.
As I say, it has taken time to get the program off the ground because we were determined – both Government and the company – to ensure that the milk reaches schools around the country all at the same time. These packets have a shelf life of six months. So there is no question of the milk being spoilt before it reaches our children and schools can receive their supply in bulk to store and use as needed.
By delivering the milk in this way, it doesn’t matter if you live in a city or town or in the remotest rural or maritime community.
So, my fellow Fijians, we promised to do this and we have delivered. And I am extremely proud of the efforts of everyone involved in rolling out this program that I know will be appreciated by parents and Year One students all over the country.
Children, enjoy your milk and your Weetbix. It will give you a wonderful start to the day and help give you a wonderful start in life.
I also want you all to think carefully about staying fit and healthy in every other aspect of your daily lives.
Don’t eat sweets – or too many sweets. Eat more fruit. Eat Weetbix. Don’t drink soft drink- or too much soft drink. Drink water or fresh fruit juice and drink milk. And eat more fresh fish and fresh vegetables because those are the best foods to make you big and strong.
And always remember this; that to keep fit you need to do as much exercise as you can. Get hold of a ball and kick or pass it around. Run as much as you can. And make sure you get involved in those sporting activities your school or community offers you.
It doesn’t matter if you’re not great at sports. The important thing is to play in the right spirit, learn the benefits of team work, and get the exercise you need to grow into a healthy adult. Because if you don’t eat well and exercise, you can get some very serious illnesses.
Use this free milk and Weetbix to start your day and get plenty of exercise. And you can avoid some of the health problems that many older Fijians are suffering because they haven’t looked after themselves properly.
You all have better futures ahead of you than any other child in Fijian history. My Government has given you the opportunity to learn more than your parents or grandparents ever had the chance of doing. So please think carefully about the things I have said today and make the most of the opportunities my Government has given you – to finish primary school, go on to high school and then perhaps do a university course or a technical college course to achieve whatever dream you may have for yourself now or as you get older.
Children, this is a great day for you all and a great day for the other 20,000 Fijians of your class who will benefit from this program.
I certainly couldn’t be more happy as I look out at all your shining faces – the future of our beloved nation. Because I can tell you that nothing makes my job as Prime Minister more worthwhile than to give you all the leg-up you deserve. And to help fulfil your parent’s dreams for you and your own dreams for yourselves.
I now have great pleasure to launch the Government’s Free Milk Initiative now also with free Weetbix. And to Year One students all over Fiji I say: Drink up your milk everybody and of course eat your Weetbix. And here’s to a happy and healthy life for you all.
Vinaka vakalevu, thank you.