EDUCATION is one of the most important investments a country can make in its people and its future, because it is critical to reducing poverty and inequality.
And if the September election was a single issue popularity contest, the Bainimarama government would have won hands down with its free tuition and free bus fare initiatives.
That's a judgement made based on the response The Fiji Times West Bureau survey team received from communities visited in the Western Division.
There is widespread support across all communities and ages that education be a priority — and should there be a change in government, people want these initiatives to continue — and improve.
The impact of investment in education is profound as it paves the way to a career.
It leads to enlightenment and thus improves health, promotes gender equality, and reduces poverty.
So here we share what some people need as far as the issue of education is concerned.
The sun was out and blazing when we came upon Eva Tadi along Namena Rd in Naria, Rakiraki. The 53-year-old was on horseback and pointed to the mountains as he explained why he relocated from his Nailuva Village so that his daughter could attend high school.
"I just moved here but there's a lot of people from Nailuva around here because there is no high school in the village," he said.
"I am farming in the mountains here and it takes about an hour to walk to the main road because there is no bus service.
But I can't afford to send my daughter to high school from Nailuva because the free bus fare is for two stages only. I can't afford to pay the remaining carrier hire to take her to Ra High School which is 30km away."
"I believe they should reassess the bus fare scheme and look at it in the context of people's situations as well."
Bulou Amalaini, 18, of Nadroga said while free tuition brought relief to parents, students also wanted quality education.
"The lack of resources in the schools is one of the main problems and at tertiary level there is overcrowding and not enough books and computers for all students."
Litiana Raiwalui, 18, also felt there were not enough resources to cater for students in tertiary institutions.
Tertiary and high school students who were interviewed felt that scholarships and education assistance should also be in the context of an individual's situation.
"Orphans like me and those disadvantaged because of circumstances like no proper roads or water supply should be able to know that we don't have to worry about competing for a scholarship with others from well to do families and who have more resources to study at their disposal," said Luisa Rounds, 18.
A majority of students said they did not agree with the scaling of exam marks because students had a right to measure how well they performed so they could prepare for future exams.
They also want the Fiji Intermediate Examination, Fiji Eighth Year Examination and Fiji Junior Certificate Examination reinstated.
They said examinations prepared students for bigger exams and set a benchmark for areas they needed to improve on.