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'Ownership' of Fiji

Fay Volatabu
Monday, January 21, 2013

THESE past two weeks, the burning of the draft constitution and the passing of a decree pertaining to the workings of political parties has pretty much occupied not just the news media but everyday conversations of Fiji's citizens.

And rightly so, as a country and its people, we should be interested in the developments of the various aspects of Fiji. The National Council of Women itself has in the period itself met twice to discuss concerns on these issues as well as to continue its planning for long-term activities.

So forgive me if I say this but in the frenzy, some of us forgot something I think should be the most important activity of this time of the year — the return of our children to school.

Think about it, in the absence of a much more liberated environment for negotiations on a constitution, legal frameworks for freedom of expressions and just about everything else, I feel we have forgotten that the last ounce of hope we have for the Fiji we all dream about remain very much in the way we nurture Fiji's current generation of children and youth.

This nurturing I refer to does not only mean those talks and moments you spend talking to your children about what life is, moral guidelines and as well reinforcing positive self-identity values. Its also about the resources you use to help that child and young person develop and discover their potential. Back to school shopping should therefore be an important date in any parent's calendar.

Right now, making sure that your child has all the clothing and study requirements to go through 2013 academic year should be top priority for Fiji's parents. Yes, it may be expensive and may cut into whatever budget lines you've set for yourselves but it's a worthy investment for everyone. Your child, you and your spouse and Fiji.

I remember a colleague of mine sharing how her father's approach to back to school shopping really pushed her into working harder at school and achieving academically.

"We weren't rich but despite having to host relatives from the village during the Christmas holiday, my father would on the first week of January promptly take me and my siblings to town to buy our school stuff," she said. "Because we were close to him, we'd try as much as possible to get cheaper alternatives because we knew at the back of our minds that we had relatives we needed to help out and of course bills and all that.

"Of course, he would notice this and remind us that it was his duty as a parent to worry about that and that our only worry was making sure that we had the right books, calculators, math sets to ensure that his investment into our education would reap good returns.

"You can imagine how that statement stayed etched in our minds throughout the school year particularly as it was constantly reinforced at family devotions and drives to and back from school in my dad's old car."

Her story also reminds us that as parents we must also continue to keep our children in the loop — it gives them a sense of ownership and will provide them with the much needed motivation for better efforts in the classroom.

I don't know whether some of our iTaukei families still practise this but it was tradition in our family — maybe because we all went to boarding schools -—that the Sunday before school started, our parents would host us to a big lunch.

I remember having to sit with my brother and cousins at the table and my parents taking turns to talk to us about the how they were now sending us off equipped to school with the hope that we would do our family proud and how they would pray and support us as much as possible to be all that we can be.

Looking back now, it was my parents' way of telling me that the ball was in my court and that they had done their bit and it was now up to me to do create what I could from their provisions.

If you're a parent of school-aged children, I hope you've not only prioritised their school needs but more importantly share with them the importance of the investments you're making into their development. It's a great way to begin training our children to take ownership and responsibility of the Fiji they will inherit and lead in the future.

And with that, NCW wishes all school students the very best for the 2013 academic year!

* Fay Volatabu is the general secretary for the National Council of Women Fiji. The views expressed are hers and not of this newspaper. Email: or

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