ABOUT 30 second year education students at the Fiji National University sat for an exam paper that began at 9pm last Saturday and ended at 1am on Sunday.
The students were members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
SDA general secretary Pastor Wame Sausau told The Fiji Times that the issue was brought to his attention by another pastor, Joe Talemaitoga, who was responsible for adventist students studying at tertiary institutions in Fiji.
"Pastor Joe was negotiating with FNU about the issue of Seventh-day Adventist students not being able to sit their exams from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday for religious reasons and if the exams could be rescheduled on another week day," he said.
"The answer from FNU was a no, and so FNU went ahead and published the exam timetable with Saturday exams that would have put our adventist students under immense pressure.
"After discussions and negotiations with FNU failed, it was finally decided that the best option under the circumstances was the Saturday night exams," he said.
In response to queries, FNU senior public relations officer Ashwini Prasad said a written request was received from the students of the Seventh-day Adventist faith on Friday afternoon "only hours before the scheduled exams were to start."
She said the university gave them the option of taking the examinations either Saturday night or late in December.
However, Mr Talemaitoga maintained yesterday that the issue had been discussed with the university weeks before the exam.
"This option has been raised before with the university weeks before the exam," he said.
"Given that the university exam timetable was not changed or not going to be changed from Saturday exams to any other day, we requested for the Saturday night examination option."
Mr Talemaitoga said FNU gave the students the option of the Saturday night examination or a supplementary paper in December.
"They (students) chose the first option as this would mean that they would graduate with their colleagues on December 14.
"The church helped with the supervision of our students during the Sabbath hours and they were able to sit for their papers after sunset on Saturday December 1.
"The Seventh-day Adventist Church will continue to work with authorities, whether it's government, training or educational or even employers, in upholding religious freedom," he said.
Ms Prasad said through the entire day, FNU staff supervised the students while they prayed and rested prior to taking the exams.
"The SDA Chaplain, Joe Talemaitoga, who was on campus that day, wrote to the university in appreciation for the arrangements.
"He said the arrangements had worked out really well," said Ms Prasad.