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School setback

Repeka Nasiko
Tuesday, January 23, 2018

FIVE skeletal frames stand as desolate tent shells in the middle of the Nalaba District School in Ra.

The frames were mounted by parents and management before the start of the new school year, but work on setting up the tents was temporarily postponed because of the recent heavy downpours early last week.

The tents will be used by about 140 students.

When The Fiji Times visited the school last Thursday, January 18, about 20 students had showed up for classes.

The parents of the other 120 have refused to send their children to school until the tents are cleaned, beds dried and an eating area for hostel students erected.

Ministry of Education permanent secretary Iowane Tiko said the ministry was aware of the situation at Nalaba District School.

"We are attending to this and things on the ground is as such because of contractors moving in to begin reconstruction works," he said yesterday in reply to questions sent to the ministry last week.

"We are loading tents and delivering to a few schools in Ra and Ba, Tavua according to needs request provided."

School manager Pauliasi Dogai said the five tents that were supposed to be mounted for classes collapsed during the heavy downpour on January 14.

He said the muddy grounds made it difficult for the teachers and management to clean the tents.

"This happens every time," he said.

"Whenever it rains, we have to take down the tents and clean them, dry them up and then put them up again.

"We have been doing this for two years. The covers are now old because we have to keep cleaning and drying them up every time it rains.

"There's mud everywhere so we have to move the tents from one place to another to set up the classrooms."

He said one of the tents was also used as a hostel.

"We have students coming from inland so they stay in our hostel. The rain on Sunday caused a leak in the hostel tent and the beds and mattresses got wet."

He said most of the students had yet to attend classes.

"Their parents don't want to send them to school because they know there is nowhere for their children to sleep and eat.

"Another tent is used for eating and we don't even have that."

He said contractors tasked to build three new classrooms, a dining hall and a hostel, had yet to complete the projects.

"They tell us that they'll finish the work in March.

"We can't wait until then. Our students need to attend classes."

Former teacher and Nalaba District School chairman Inosi Toga said the school was ranked as one of the best performing schools in the Ra Province.

"The school had a 90 per cent pass rate last year.

"We have students from Year 1 to Year 8 who did well in their school work. We have bright students but their school environment is not suitable for them.

"One of the classrooms they are using right now has a leaking roof. We had to cover it with a tarpaulin on Monday after the heavy rain.

"When the rain comes in, half of the classroom can't be used."

He said the school urgently needed new tents to hold classes while the construction work continued.

Nativi Village headman Marika Koroibete said the school needed urgent help.

"We have done everything we can to help the students and teachers," he said.

"We help with setting up the tents and we repaired one of the teachers' quarters that was the only building standing after Winston.

"I am asking Government to help us get our children into proper classrooms."

The school management confirmed that a team from the Ministry of Education visited the school last Saturday to assess the situation after this newspaper raised the issue with the ministry.

Mr Dogai said the ministry officials took images of the unmounted tents and unfinished classrooms and teachers quarters.

He said no assurances were given to the school management by the officials.

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