The Fiji Times

Education challenges


YES, very good team compared with other teams in its pool. TEVITA RAVULO Sigatoka

AS I read the Ministry of Education permanent secretary’s report on the challenges faced by Fiji’s education sector because of the departure of a great number of teachers from the ministry’s employment over these years, (The Fiji Times 21/9/23) I can only say that the crisis can easily be addressed by Government alone in two major ways.

(a) Recognise and restore the status of teachers according to what our Government and fellow government­s of the world had agreed to and mandated to apply as members of UN. It is the ILO/UNESCO recommenda­tions on the status of teachers.

This was signed in 1966 for all teachers and in 1997 for teachers in higher education.

The provisions of these two universal instrument­s are supposed to



Sony SRS-XE200 not only set a universal standard for the recognitio­n of the status of teachers; but also to achieve quality standards that teachers of all countries of the world and at every level, are to maintain. Principles concerning the rights and responsibi­lities of educators, ranging from the pre-school are set out in these instrument­s.

I had raised this before in the media when the past government was confusing issues about teachers’ required qualificat­ions and unilateral­ly imposing working conditions outside the usual collective agreement bargaining process which the ministry was duty-bound to recognise and apply.

I had also mentioned that our very own Fiji citizen and academic, Professor Konai Thaman of USP had sat on the committee, CEART, that monitored the applicatio­n of the ILO/UNESCO recommenda­tion on the status of teachers worldwide.

I kindly request the Ministry of Education to use this recommenda­tion to guide the work on the preparatio­n of quality teachers for quality



(b) Honour our teachers’ workers’ rights by fully restoring teachers working conditions embodied in the collective agreements which had been negotiated through collective bargaining over the years.

These working conditions were negotiated on behalf of teachers by their unions, FTU and FTA and are documented as general orders by PSC, as well as the FNU Collective Agreement.

The Ministry of Education must note that they do not have the mandate to unilateral­ly impose teachers’ working conditions. As a member of ILO, Fiji had ratified ILO Convention­s 87 and 99 and under the provisions of these, all conditions of work have been agreed to be negotiated by the employer and employees through employees’ representa­tives.

When the employer (Ministry of Education) wishes to change any condition or introduce a new one; and if the teachers also desire a new need to be met, they each table their proposals in a new “Log of

Claims” and set dates for collective bargaining.

Once consensus is achieved in these negotiatio­ns, an agreement on the new condition(s) is signed.

Unfortunat­ely, the last government had unilateral­ly removed many of these negotiated conditions and imposed new ones.

Most damaging had been the introducti­on of contracts and the massive work burden of writing up of reports by teachers.

Most critical was the removal of negotiated MQR for teachers’ posts and its replacemen­t by the Open Merit System.

We believe that as long as the elements of this OMS are still being used, and the old MQR which put work and leadership experience first rather than academic qualificat­ions, many experience­d, good educationa­l leaders in the schools will continue to leave.

I thank this Government for removing contracts, restoring rights of faith-based schools’ management to choose their heads and for inviting the two teachers’ unions to again sit at the table when postproces­sing is done.

May I recommend that the ministry focus on correcting the process of collective bargaining for teachers’ conditions and applying this all the time.

You see, teachers are the deliverers of education.

Hence, they must always be involved in an organised way, to identify their needs; students’ needs, curriculum needs and the needs or gaps in ministry’s services or management.

These all impact on the teachers’ working conditions and hence can be best addressed through negotiatio­ns of working conditions which includes fair pay as recognitio­n of teachers’ status and worth. SUSANA TUISAWAU



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