14 Jul 2006

Fiji Opposition leader says racial segregation will remain unless education given priority

6:45 pm on 14 July 2006

Fiji's Opposition leader says racial segregation will remain in the country unless indigenous Fijians put education first.

Mick Beddoes was responding to a damning report relesed by the Fiji Teachers Association, which shows that around 17,000 students drop out of school every year.

The research shows the bulk of them are indigenous Fijians from poor, rural communities.

It found that parents are spending their income on customary and religious obligations before their children's education.

Mr Beddoes called on the churches, the Great Council of Chiefs and the Government to come up with initiatives to reduce the financial toll on families and change their attitudes to education.

He says ignorance has contributed to the socio-economic gulf between indigenous and indo-Fijian communities.

"This is part of our problem, this is why we will never bridge the gap which creates the political divisions."

Mr Beddoes says there's too much pressure on families to spend their meagre incomes on the church.