Bula vinaka and a good morning to you all.

I’m delighted to be here today at the Nakurukuruvakatini Primary School in Naitasiri to bring new equipment and infrastructure to your deserving students. I’ve said many times, visiting schools and seeing our nation’s children is my favourite thing to do as Prime Minister. So I had a great time last week during my Tour of the North, when I had the chance to visit four schools and provide much needed upgrades and new equipment. Now that I’m here with you all today at the Nakurukuruvakatini Primary School, it’s safe to say that I’ve really been enjoying my job lately.

I say that because when I see the faces of our schoolchildren, hear their stories and their dreams for the future, it inspires me to do the best job that I possibly can for Fiji. As a father, and grandfather, every day I strive to create a better world for our children and grandchildren to inherit. A world that is greater than the one that was left to us, filled with possibility and promise for an even brighter future.

Now that, I believe, is a noble aspiration — but it is meaningless if we aren’t following up with real improvements that give our children better experiences in the classroom. Real improvements that make our children more competitive academically and more capable of meeting the rigorous demands of education and adulthood. Real improvements that expand the scope of our education system, so that no student is allowed to fall behind and miss out on opportunities down the road.

Here at the Nakurukuruvakatini Primary School, you have established an institution that has done great work in bringing quality education to a more remote corner of our country. Since 2000, you have assisted disadvantaged families by giving the children of Korovou, Narokorokoyawa, Nasava, Matawailevu, Nasauvere and Tubarua a better shot at life.

The real improvements being brought to you today will make your school more capable than ever before of servicing this region and helping your students live healthy and productive lives. You have been provided with 100 sets of double bunk beds, a new VTSAT System and cooking items. Together this represents a $63,781 investment by my Government, an investment we are confident will better the lives of your students and staff.

These improvements will bring the comforts and provisions enjoyed by our schools in Suva to our equally deserving students here in Naitasiri. The days of boarding students not having beds to sleep on are over. This school can truly become a home away from home for students who now have proper beds to call their own. The challenging days of cooking food over open-fires are over as well. These new cooking items will make cooking cleaner, easier and most importantly, safer.

It means a lot to students when they can learn and live in more modern, functional spaces. It has a direct impact on how valued they feel and how well they do in school. So let me assure all the students here today. You are valued, we are investing in you because we believe in you, we believe in what you can accomplish and I am confident that when it is your turn to take up the mantle of Fiji, you will keep us moving forward and, one day, create a better world for your own children as well.

I would also like to take some time to tell you about the new VTSAT system that has been installed in your school as well, because communication and information are essential to a proper education. When we keep our teachers and students connected with the rest of Fiji, we make sure they are receiving the most up-to-date materials and have a constant line of communication with the Ministry for Education.

Our education system is becoming more collaborative and participatory every day, but that can only continue if we make sure every school is connected to our national network. Only then can we hear all the voices of our students and teachers and provide them with what they need to succeed.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Just this week, I called for more money to be put into our education system to support our teachers, build new infrastructure and provide our students with modern equipment. Because in our new Fiji, every student should have equal opportunity to go as far as their merit can carry them.

My Government’s vision for a new Fiji is not only about giving our students new and better opportunities, it is also about re-claiming who we are as a people and uniting us under common purpose. That vision is worthy of a flag that truly displays our our rich history and who we are as a people.

Our current flag has served us well, but it represents our past, not our future. Fiji belongs to the Fijian people, and so should our new flag. It needs to capture the beautiful imagery of our country and symbolise our unity and independence.

My Government is in the process of giving the Fijian people a flag that truly showcases who we are as a country. We have recently extended the deadline for new flag design submissions to the 29th of February due to the overwhelming number of responses we have received. In March, we will put forward five designs and consult with all of you, the public, before declaring our new flag on Constitution Day, the 7th of September.

This flag will represent every Fijian, so I encourage all of you to involve yourselves in this process. Submit your designs and make your voice heard on the new Fijian flag. This a national effort of enormous significance – as this new flag will wave over Fiji for countless generations to come. So I hope all of you will share your opinions and ideas during this important national conversation, so that Fiji can fly a flag that shows who we are – an independent nation-state, proud of our people, proud of what we’ve achieved, and confident in what we can still accomplish.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I hope you will use these new improvements to the Nakurukuruvakatini Primary School to their greatest potential. Your teachers and your students deserve no less. I believe in you, Fiji believes in you, so please do your best, work hard and I know you will accomplish great things.

Thank you. Vanaka Vakalevu.