17 Jun 2004

Fiji PM rejects plan for special assistance for some indigenous Fijian school pupils

9:47 am on 17 June 2004

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, has distanced himself from the education ministry's controversial plan to provide free Form 7 education only for indigenous Fijian students and not those of any other race.

Mr Qarase told Radio Legend this morning that he does not agree with the plan.

He said the state provides fee-free education for all students irrespective of ethnic origin up to

Form 5 and there are schemes to assist poor students in Forms 6 and 7.

But Mr Qarase says "to make it free for any particular section of the community I am not in favour of it at all."

The education minister, Ro Teimumu Kepa, has been justifying the policy saying indigenous Fijian students have been lagging behind.

She says she will seek cabinet endorsement for it soon.

The Fiji Teachers Union general secretary, Agni Deo Singh, says the government should assist all poor students, irrespective of race.