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Fiji Time: 10:49 AM on Friday 18 April

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Stick to the rules

Nanise Loanakadavu
Tuesday, February 19, 2013

REGARDLESS of who you are and where you come from, students and parents are obligated under the law to accept and respect the schools values and beliefs.

However, Education Ministry permanent secretary Dr Brij Lal said under the Education Act, no child should be forced to follow the religion of the particular school of their choice.

He was reacting to the story of a parent of St Anne's Primary School in Suva who raised her concerns about what she had termed "religious discrimination" when her daughter was told to find another school because they did not attend Ash Wednesday mass last week.

Dr Lal said the same would apply to all religious schools in the country.

The head of the Catholic Church in Fiji, Archbishop elect Father Dr Peter Chong, said the church would never force any child to adopt their religion if they were non-Catholics.

However, he said the values and belief articulated in the school policy was a good practice for students.

Catholic education director Remesio Rogovakalali said all parents at St Anne's Primary School had signed the policy form before their child entered the school.

This, he said, simply meant the parents agreed to participate and respect the school's beliefs.

"Catholic schools, like all schools, have a written policy that spells out the guidelines that need to be followed by students as well as staff, both for efficiency of operation and to cater for the special character of Catholic schools," he said.

Mr Rogovakalali said the policy helped form the basis of belief and "underlying philosophy of the Catholic Church".

He said in furthering the development of students, schools like St Anne's established religious education program and forms of worship and rituals as approved by the Catholic Church.

"These policies are in written form and are usually given to parents when their children are accepted in the school," Mr Rogovakalali said.

He said a particular policy guideline in St Anne's set of policies stipulate that "all pupils shall participate in liturgical celebrations including (the attendance) of masses".

"Understandably, if a parent is uncomfortable with that, it would have been prudent to have consultations with the management and perhaps ask for special consideration when it comes to liturgical celebrations," he said.

Mr Rogovakalai said there were thousands of students who did not belong to the Catholic faith attending Catholic schools in Fiji.

"They are merely asked to observe the policies and respect the values and beliefs of those who have toiled to establish and maintain the school," he said.

"Not one of these students is forced to become a Catholic."