Let’s not forget to read

Students of Rishikul Sanatan College after school in Nasinu earlier this month. Picture: SOPHIE RALULU/FILE

With school on hold now, we have an opportunity to look back at an important issue we seem to have forgotten.

Around this time back in 2020, we learnt that the majority of students who entered high school were either non-readers or slow readers. It was a shock to the system and to many Fijians.

This was a major concern at the time. We wonder whether it still is a concern.

The claim was made by a high school principal Praveen Chand during a heads of schools meeting at the Vunimono hall, Nausori that week. The issue, he felt, was a tragedy for Fiji. He often got emotional, he said, while trying to work out ways to help students who entered his school with literacy issues.

The problem, he pointed out, was not unique to his high school. At the time, he claimed it was a national issue and the Ministry of Education had to find a way to immediately address it.

The ministry, he said, had to get to the root cause of the issue before it could formulate solutions. The issue, he suggested, could be related to the kind of students present in schools or to the kind of textbooks they were learning from, or the curriculum. The national pass rate at the time, he suggested, showed a clear indication of the enormity of the problem.

“Just imagine these students do not know how to read and write in high school,” he said at the time.

So now as we look forward to the resumption of school, and to the start of school for some students, we have to remind ourselves about the need for us to be prepared as parents and guardians.

In 2020, the Ministry of Education’s Central Division education officer Pravin Nath said the ministry had data on the issue and was working on how best it could rectify it. Many questions were raised in the wake of this revelation.

Let’s face it, such a predicament was shocking, and a poor reflection of our education system at the time. It was unbelievable that some students at high school were unable to read properly. We asked the question at the time: When and how did we get to this sad state of affairs?

Were there other factors that needed to be addressed? It makes sense that if some children are unable to read then something is wrong somewhere. Emphasis has been placed on education over the past few years. Money has been pumped into this important sector. If this wasn’t fixed, then what were we doing wrong?

Seriously, if some students had reached high school and were still unable to read well, then we wonder whether the system failed them.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a huge swipe at our education system. The second wave which struck us in April last year, forced students to stay home for the rest of the year. This is why we believe face-to-face education is important. That, however, comes with many high expectations and demands on safety for instance.

Right now, we are encouraged to be proactive as parents and guardians. It is in our best interest and that of our young charges that we place education on a very high plane.

That means empowering our children. It means setting the base for them to go to school. But there is also an expectation that safety concerns are addressed by the powers that be, and placed on the highest plane. Education is important for a nation. It is critical for development, and so are lives!

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