Global Newsroom

Fiji Schools Outreach Tops 20,000

Monday, 8. September 2003

Over 20,000 students in 53 Fijian high schools have now participated in sessions conducted by “Foundations of a Better Fiji”.

Ratu Tui Cavuilati with July 26 2003 workshop

Ratu Tui Cavuilati with July 26 2003 workshop

Over 20,000 high school students in Fiji have now participated in sessions conducted by 'Foundations of a Better Fiji', a programme of 'Fiji - I Care' and Initiatives of Change. The programme started in 1994 with the aim of equipping school leavers to think how to make a contribution to their country.

The programme challenges students to live up to absolute moral values - honesty, purity, unselfishness and love - and to adopt a daily practice of quiet reflection on the initiatives of change they could take for Fiji. These ideas are put in context by those conducting the sessions, who use examples of their own real experiences of acknowledging and correcting wrong attitudes and actions in order to be free for a larger purpose. Over half of the students have expressed their decisions or discoveries in a voluntary questionnaire at the end of the second of their two sessions with the programme. One wrote, 'Firstly I will have to forgive myself. Secondly I will have to forgive others and seek their forgiveness. And lastly I will have to be an open-minded person in everything I do… I made the first step admitting with others that I was in the wrong. I had to humble myself and not think that I was in the right all the time.'

School students listen attentively at a 'Fiji I Care' workshop, 2003

A specific area of focus has been inter-ethnic relations, the pivotal issue in much of Fiji's political upheaval and particularly the three military coups since 1987. An ethnic Fijian wrote: 'Listened to the inner voice … Not to have negative feelings about other races because by that it would not get me anywhere … Apologised to them, which was the hardest thing to do in my life.' And from an Indian: '[I] have asked for forgiveness and directly told them [those of other races] the way I felt about some of the things they've done that have hurt me.'

In response to students' interest in pursuing these ideas further, there have been a number of training workshops at weekends: four so far in 2003, with another two planned. In early August a group of students drew great inspiration from a visit to the village of Ratu Tui Cavuilati, the Permanent Secretary of the Public Service Commision and responsible for over 26,000 civil servants. At a workshop a fortnight earlier (see photo) he had recounted to these students how the application of the ideas of Initiatives of Change 20 years ago had turned his life around, enabling him to discern and realise greater visions for himself, his village and Fiji. Other visiting speakers in the programme have included former High Court judge and high chief Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi; top NGO activist Jone Dakuvula; and former extreme Fijian nationalist Ratu Meli Vesikula.

'Foundations of a Better Fiji' has received funding from school committees, teachers' associations, embassies, church bodies and individuals, but its basis of operation continues to be faith that definite, timely help will come when needed.

To contact the programme, please visit our 'opportunities' section.