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Long haul

Serafina Silaitoga
Thursday, July 10, 2014

FOR the love of sports, children as young as nine years old brave a nine-kilometre walk, once a week, for the primary schools' Milo Kaji competition on Taveuni.

And the closure of the bridge at Bouma Village on Taveuni for the past two months has not deterred the students of Lavena Village.

There is hope though following confirmation that work on the bridge is expected to be finished in about three weeks' time.

Accompanied by parents and teachers of Lavena Primary School, the walk includes a few stops along the two-hour journey from Lavena to Bouma.

With bottles of water packed in their bags for the competition at Naselesele Village, the students have also learnt to store and use water wisely.

While these primary school students walk every Saturday, it is the daily ritual for their elder brothers and sisters attending secondary schools in the central area of the island.

They have had to leave home as early as 5am to board the bus at 6.30am.

The closure of the bridge has sealed off all traffic flow to Lavena, including the bus services that about 2000 people on that stretch between Lavena and Bouma depend on.

Lavena Village headman Pelasio Manaseva said they had arranged a vehicle in the village to transport villagers up to the damaged bridge.

Mr Manaseva said since the Milo Kaji school competition started, parents had to reorganise their weekend schedules to accompany their children.

As work on the bridge continues, villagers said they had to fork out more money for transportation.

Villagers have resorted to either hiring a boat for $20 or paying a $5 return carrier ride (from Lavena) to Bouma where the bus now stops.

Fiji Roads Authority CEO Neil Cook said they had been working on a new bridge design for the village.

He said the closure was imperative because the safety of the public was paramount.

Mr Cook said works on the bridge would be completed soon.

Divisional Planning Officer North Uraia Rainima said repair works on the bridge would be completed in the next three weeks.

"We have just received a report from MWH about the bridge repairs and they have informed us that they will (complete) repair (works) in three weeks' time," he said. It is understood the deteriorating condition of the bridge warranted urgent closure for repair works.

Selina Ciba, a mother whose children have been part of the weekend walk, said it was not good for the children, especially having to face the problem for two months.

She said they had not seen any work carried out on the bridge.

Mrs Ciba said about 20 students walked every Saturday to Bouma and parents have had to sacrifice other commitments to accompany their children to Naselesele Village.

She added the $5 carrier fare was the same amount they paid as bus fare for the 45-kilometre trip to Waiyevo.

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