24 Sep 2003

Fiji Teachers Union to protest discriminatory funding decision

5:28 pm on 24 September 2003

The Fiji Teachers Union is to protest to the Education Minister over what it calls blatant discrimination to fund tuition fees for indigenous students only.

The union's general secretary, Agni Deo Singh, says he's writing to the minister, Ro Teimumu Kepa, to request an urgent meeting over the cabinet decision to fund fees for indigenous students to study accounting and economics.

Mr Singh says the union is not against affirmative action but this is too discriminatory.

"There are a large number of non-indigenous children who are living well below the poverty line. The majority of them are those who have been evicted from their farms and they are all squatting over the fringes of the urban area. Nobody has given an iota of assistance from government to these people. Definitely this is a very seriously discriminatory arrangement."

Mr Singh says many indigenous students will also miss out because they attend schools which are not indigenous-managed.

It is only those schools which will be the recipients of the funding.

The indigenous Fijian Teachers Association is fully supporting a government move to positively discriminate funding for indigenous students only.

Maika Namudu, the association's secretary-general, says this will help bridge the gap between indigenous students and others.

People not agreeable to think of how Fijian students in this country, the difficulties they are facing at this moment. Most of our students are rurally located and they are put into primary schools run by indigenous Fijians that are not very well-off schools in comparison to Indian schools that are much much better off financially and administratively.

Maika Namudu, secretary-general of the indigenous Fijian Teachers Association.