Fiji Methodists providing churches as temporary schools
Fiji's Methodist Church is making its churches and halls available as temporary classrooms with Cyclone Winston have wrecked dozens of schools across the country.
Fiji's Methodist Church is making its churches, halls and other buildings available as temporary classrooms as the country strives to get children back to school.
Many schools around the country opened on Monday but others were destroyed by Cyclone Winston or suffered damage rendering them temporarily out of action.
The spokesman for the Methodist Church in Fiji, Reverend James Bhagwan, told Don Wiseman they want to help out as much as they can.
JAMES BHAGWAN: We haven't received an assessment from the ministry of education as to how many schools are damaged. They have identified a number but we are not quite sure of the exact areas. And you are correct, we have a number of churches that have been either damaged or destroyed. Some have only minor damage and some of our halls are available and not being used as evacuation centres. So the president yesterday wrote to the minister of education to offer whatever we have in terms of our building to be used as schools. And what we are asking is, if they are willing to do that, if they could then carry on the discussion at the local level because the people on the ground know what is available. They are doing their assessments as well, and so they can have that conversation. We have basically given a blanket approval. Our church is nation wide. Many of our members and our communities have been affected by the cyclone. We are not a cash rich church, but we have resources in terms of people, structures, buildings. And so we are giving whatever we can to support the effort to get Fiji back up on its feet. Whether that is offering our church halls to be continued to be used as evacuation centres or temporary centres, or shelter until people are able to rebuild their homes. Or in this case for churches to be used as schools.
DON WISEMAN: Some of those buildings that might be used, they will require some minor repairs first. So what, you would hope the government would step in and do that?
JB: Well we are willing to work with whoever is able to assist in that area. We have our overseas partners that may be willing to help us. If the government is able to do that, if aid agencies are able to do that. But the focus is of course on getting the children back at school as quickly as possible. You know, from the earliest days, education in Fiji began in the churches until schools were built. So this is nothing new for us. To use our places of worship also as places of learning.
DW: Yes, of course. Given the damage of the schools you could have schools in these church halls for months and months. Are you happy with that?
JB: We understand the impact of this cyclone, and the church leadership is of the view that this is our time for us to step up and do whatever we can to help our people. If it means a church is being used as a classroom during the week for two years, well that is fine with the church. Same with the halls as evacuation centres or temporary shelters. We heard in the news this morning that it may take up to two years for people to get back into homes. But we want to alleviate as much suffering as possible.
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