The origin of Nawaicoba Public School

IN the early 1960s, Nawaicoba in Nadi became a safe haven for scores of farmers whose land leases had expired without a possibility of renewal.

As the years passed, the vast area was soon filled with numerous re-settlers looking for a fresh start in life.

While a majority of those who settled here were farmers with only the most basic of education, families soon realised the need for a proper school in the area.

A united vision to educate the children of Nawaicoba was realised as farmers and villagers from the iTaukei and Fijians of Indian descent community banded together to construct what is known as Nawaicoba Public School today.

Last week, the school celebrated its rich history during its golden jubilee celebrations.

A father’s vision

Ravendra Datt was about 24 years old when he made the move to Nawaicoba in 1965.

His family moved from Lavusa to Togo before settling in Nawaicoba.

“Our land was reserved and we had no choice but to move, so we were among the first to resettle in Nawaicoba,” the 75-year-old said.

“I was the sixth of nine children — six brothers and three sisters — and our parents were farmers so we did farming too.”

Once settled, the family managed to secure a whopping 118-acre land lease for cane farming, which has since been divided among the brothers.

Mr Datt said his father, Bal Raj, saw that there was a dire need for a school in Nawaicoba as students had to travel to town to attend school.

“He got about 18 other people to help construct the school. It was his vision.

“He was very determined to finish the project. I remember he used to spend hours at the site when the construction was still going on and he would be there every single day.

“My father also assigned me and some other boys to watch over the site, especially during night.”

Mr Datt said at one point, he wanted to leave the construction process and travel the country instead.

“My father said something to me and it stuck ever since. He told me, ‘how can you travel when the school is being built? Think about the education of the children’.

“So I stayed and we all helped with the building. It took almost a year to complete and there were no major hardships. Everything happened well.”

Mr Datt said his children and grandchildren were educated through Nawaicoba Public School.

“I am really glad my father’s dream was realised and I am so proud of the school.”

Memories of a founder

Jone Lawaqa arrived in Nawaicoba from Uto Village in Rukuruku, Ba, in 1965 to pursue a career in cane farming.

After acquiring an 11-acre plot of land, he began his new work and ended up married not long after.

Following his parents in the farming field, Mr Lawaqa was eager to provide only the best for his family.

That was why he was one of the first to provide funds when the idea to construct a school was raised.

“I think I gave about $150,” the 74-year-old told this newspaper.

“It was really good. I remember a lot of farmers got together and they were discussing about how to go about building the school.”

People from neighbouring villages — including Bavu and Loqi — were also among the people who joined in the proposal.

“When the school started, I think there were about three or four classrooms. Looking back, I am very glad about what we achieved.”

Mr Lawaqa’s seven children — three sons and four daughters — were all educated at Nawaicoba Public School.

His fourth child, Isikeli Naitoko, said some of his fondest memories of childhood was created in school.

“I attended Nawaicoba Public from 1983 onwards — I completed my studies up to Class Eight,” the 38-year-old said.

“After that, I went to Ba Methodist for boarding and came back to complete Forms Five and Six at Ratu Navula College.”

After school, Mr Naitoko joined his father and is today a sugarcane farmer.

“I had a memorable time at the school and I feel really proud that the school has reached 50 years. I am even more proud because my father helped to found the school.”

His nine-year-old daughter, Vika Voka, has joined in her father’s footsteps and is now a Year Four student at Nawaicoba Public.

Mr Naitoko said his other children would also attend the school when they came of age.

50 years on

Present school manager Bala Dass, who is a notable figure in the sugarcane sector, has been at his position for the past 14 years.

He told this newspaper the school had been established in 1966 and had been going strong ever since.

Having overcome the numerous obstacles in the past, Mr Bala said they were confident the school would soldier on in the years to come.

Presently, about 200 students from Years One to Eight attend the school.

He also commended the community for the amazing support for the golden jubilee festival organised at the school grounds last week.

Beacon for community

Education Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy, who is a former student of Nawaicoba Public School, said the institution truly had a special significance for the people of Nawaicoba.

Speaking during the closing night of the school’s golden jubilee celebrations last Saturday, he said their forefathers deserved recognition for having the vision to construct the school.

“About 50 years ago, some canecutters and members of the settlement got together and decided to build the school,” he said.

“Their dream was that their children, their grandchildren and future generations in the village must have access to primary education.”

He said despite receiving basic education, they had the dream to build a primary school so that their children could be educated.

Dr Reddy also thanked the number of managers who looked after the school over its 50-year existence.

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