The Fiji Times
Looking to the future
Finally, we have some attention now firmly focused on identifying major challenges in our education system. Education Ministry permanent secretary Selina Kuruleca has revealed that while 99 per cent of students complete primary school, approximately 20 per cent of these students will drop out of school between years 8 and 12.
If that wasn’t bad enough, studies have shown rural children are at a greater risk of failing their numeracy and literacy assessments.
In fact rural students were more likely to drop out of school. We have a huge problem before us, and we wonder how long this has been going on.
While the overall dropout from years 8 to 12 is 20 per cent, Ms Kuruleca says, the rate for rural children sits at 39 per cent.
She noted 31 per cent of boys drop out as opposed to girls with a 9 per cent chance of dropping out.
She makes a very strong statement about the gap that exists between the education systems in the rural and urban areas.
There is a connection, and she highlights another significant factor which she says is linked to poverty in the rural areas.
She does raise a few questions: “Some of us should be asking the question now. Why is it particularly high in the rural areas? What are our mataqali and our vanua doing? What can they do differently?”
In saying that, we wonder about how the powers that be are addressing rural poverty, now that they are aware of the massive challenge before them. Let’s face it, they are all connected.
Are parents empowered and motivated to prioritise the education of their children for starters?
How do we alleviate this, empower families, and promote education?
The last thing we want is a handout, however, there is a massive challenge that must be addressed, for the sake of our children, and for the future of the nation.
Ms Kuruleca even raises the issue of poor performances in Year 12.
This will reflect on our tertiary institutions, and eventually in the employment market. That lives us with possible implications we may be forced to face and deal with in the future. In 2021 we raised our education woes.
It was around January that year that we learnt some students who entered high school were either non-readers or slow readers.
The claim was made by a high school principal during a heads of schools meeting at the Vunimono hall in Nausori. He labelled the issue a tragedy for Fiji. He revealed he often got emotional while trying to work out ways to help students with literacy issues who entered his school.
The problem, he pointed out, was not unique to his high school.
He claimed it was a national issue and the Ministry of Education had to find a way to immediately address it.
He believed the national pass rate at the time was a clear indication of the enormity of the problem.
“Just imagine these students do not know how to read and write in high school,” he said at the time.
We wondered then how we got to that stage.
Where did the education system fail them? Hundreds of thousands of dollars were pumped into the education budget over the years.
But what happened?
Seriously, if some students had reached high school and were still unable to read well, then we wonder where the system went wrong.
Now Ms Kuruleca is noting serious challenges that must be addressed. We are encouraged by this and look forward to positive developments that are good for our children.
Education is important for a nation. It is critical for development.
Please do not push some of us “over the edge”. Poverty is very real and alive.
RONNIE CHANG Martintar, Nadi