I’m delighted to be here with the people of Taveuni to celebrate the opening of your new girls’ dormitory at the Nuisawa High School. It’s a wonderful addition to the facilities here for the start of the 2015 school year and I want to pay tribute to everyone involved in getting this project off the ground.
I especially thank the Rotary Club of Taveuni for its assistance. We owe a lot in Fiji to the Rotarians and other community service groups who are working hand in hand with Government to improve the lives of everyone. So a big vinaka vakalevu to you all.
I also want to thank the Principal and staff of the Niusawa High School for the efforts they are making to improve the lives of our young people. To the parents for their support and to the students for living up to your proud school motto – “nothing without work”.
There’s obviously been a lot more hard work taking place here in recent times, judging from the school’s academic performance. I was delighted to hear of your improved standing in both the Fiji School Leaving Certificate and the Fiji Seventh Form Examinations. In 2013, 86 per cent of students here passed the FSLC – the second highest performance of any school in Cakaudrove Province – and 85 per cent passed the FSFE, the third highest performance. In the recent results, that has been lifted to 88 per cent. So congratulations on a commendable effort and I look forward to an even better performance next year.
I just want to say to both the students and their parents how important it is for you to seize the opportunities that have been given to you by this Government to get a better education and a better chance to get on in life. Because there is now no reason for any Fijian child not to get a basic education and even go on to higher studies.
As I’ve said before, I consider our education revolution the most important thing any government in Fiji has ever done. With the free schooling we introduced last year, even the poorest Fijian child now has an opportunity to reach for the stars, to fulfil their dreams through better access to learning.
As you will have heard, we are expanding this opportunity by providing free textbooks in our schools this year. So we are again reducing the cost to ordinary Fijian families of providing their children with the best possible chance to get on in life.
Obviously, when we do something this ambitious, there may be the odd delay or administrative error so I ask every Fijian to be understanding and patient as we deliver the roll-out of this initiative. But what it ultimately means is that any parent will only be responsible for paying for exercise books and uniforms.
Think for a moment how much things have changed for the family budget in the past 12 months. In 2013, families had to scrape together school fees and a whole lot of other costs on top of the usual struggle to make ends meet. Now, my Government has lifted that burden from your shoulders and we are doing everything we can to lift it further.
Never before has any Fijian child had a better chance to go to school and just as importantly, stay at school through to the end of high school. And never before has any Fijian young person had a better chance to go on to university or technical college because of our Toppers scheme for the brightest 600 students or our tertiary loans scheme for everyone else.
We’re doing this not only for our young people but the future of our nation. Because an educated country is a smart country. And a smart country can produce the quality goods and services that can boost Fiji’s capacity to compete on the international stage – to make our exports a byword for quality and Fijian workers valued the world over.
So I want to leave an important message with you all today that I hope will resonate across Fiji. That your school motto here in Niusawa – “nothing without work” – is a motto that should be embraced by every Fijian. That those values you hold dear here in Taveuni at this wonderful school, are the values we intend to pursue as a nation.
We are blessed with so much as Fijians, especially in terms of our natural resources and the beauty all around us. But the world does not owe us a living. We have to earn it. We have to sell more than we buy. We have to sell goods and services that people in other countries value.
Whether it is in tourism, sugar or manufactured goods, the entire effort of my Government is directed to boosting our exports, attracting investment, creating jobs and expanding the Fijian economy. It is working. We are making great progress. Our economy is now growing by more than 4 per cent a year. But we can’t afford to let up even for a minute.
We must identify every available opportunity and seize it, both as a nation and as individuals. That’s why the struggle to become a smarter nation doesn’t start somewhere else . It starts here with every young person at the Niusawa High School and at every other school in Taveuni, the North and throughout Fiji.
A wonderful world lies out there. A wonderful opportunity awaits any Fijian child in 2015 who is willing to work hard and take advantage of the opportunities we are giving you. “Nothing without work”. Your School motto is the greatest thing you will ever learn. Do it for yourself so that you can have a more satisfying life and provide better for yourself and your family. And do it for your nation because we all have big dreams for Fiji.
We want everyone – no matter where they live – to have access to the same services. Education, health, power, water, transport, good roads. We want people to have good jobs and sustainable, enjoyable lifestyles. We want to keep developing Taveuni and the North generally to end the decades of neglect by successive governments.
We want to make Fiji a beacon for our Pacific Island neighbours and an even more respected voice in the world. And we want to give the young people of Fiji a future that their parents and grandparents could only dream of or perhaps could never have imagined.
It all starts here for you and it’s wonderful to see the improvements that are being made to make your lifetime of learning easier and more pleasurable. Take care of these new facilities. Take care of each other. Be proud of your school. Be proud of your island. Be proud to be Fijian at a wonderful time in our history. And above all, work hard to achieve your dreams as the new school year starts in 2015.
I have great pleasure in declaring this new facility open and wishing you all the very best in the months ahead.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.