WAKING up at 4 o'clock in the morning to prepare for the day can sometimes be a daunting task for many people.
And for schoolchildren living in a large farming settlement in the heart of the Sigatoka Valley, getting ready to start another day at such a time is a daily routine.
The children of Sigatoka Valley at Nabaka settlement are up early and walking through dirty roads, rough terrains and damaged bridges to get to the nearest bus stop in time for the 6am bus.
This is the only way the children can catch the early bus and reach school on time. The second bus which comes in at 7.45am, is too late for these children who need to be at school by 8am.
The Fiji Times team caught up with two girls who were walking side by side through the Nabaka settlement on their way to the bus stop.
It was 5.30am on Monday and 14-year-olds Ansu Ateshna Devi and Sweta Singh were all wrapped under cardigans and stockings.
"We've been walking to the main road since the beginning of this year," said Sweta.
The Sigatoka Valley High School Form Three students said they could not be late for the 6am bus.
"We'll definitely get detention if we don't get on that bus," said Ansu.
The girls were among 12 others who attend Sigatoka Valley High which is about a half an hour bus ride from their bus stop. Students attending secondary schools in Sigatoka Town have earlier transport arrangements hence are up by 4.30am.
"We have some students who travel to Sigatoka Town and for that, they have to travel very early in the morning," said Satendra Prasad.
Mr Prasad is a primary school headteacher and knows the struggles each student has to go through to make it to their school.
Asked if the students would be better off attending a school that was much closer to their farming community, Mr Prasad said despite their circumstances, parents knew the value of education and they wanted their children to receive the best education.
"They are willing to make that sacrifice even though they're poor, they want their children to have the best education," said Mr Prasad.
The schoolteacher also believes that much can be done to help the children who walk every morning to the main Sigatoka Valley Rd.
"Our roads need to be improved and our main bridge needs to be repaired to allow the bus to come into our settlement," he said.
Mr Prasad explained that the Nabaka bridge was damaged earlier this year during the March flood and has never been repaired.
Suren Prasad, 72, has lived in Nabaka for more than 30 years. Speaking in fluent Navosa dialect, Mr Prasad said bad road conditions and lack of transport had always been a problem in the area — where children had to walk in the dark and fog.
Valley Comfort Buses co-director Sanjay Shankar said they had to stop services to the area because of the increasing cost of maintaining the buses.
"We suffer about $6000 to $7000 in damage when we operate in that area," said Mr Shankar.
Apart from the children facing transport problems, farmers have also been on the receiving end of the bad road conditions.
Nirbhay Nand said he paid more than $50 to transport his produce to the Sigatoka market.
He said he had been finding it difficult to recover from the loss of his crops in the March floods.
Mr Nand said more than half of his vegetable farm growing on his five acre land was destroyed by floodwaters.
Both the Land Transport Authority and the Roads Department said they were looking into the issue.