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The Confederation of Public Sector Unions which represents all civil servants including Teachers and Nurses have submitted a claim to the Minister for Civil Service on Wednesday 23rd December, 2015 seeking 15% pay rise across the Board and below the level of Permanent Secretaries with effect from 1st January, 2016.
They claim that the last pay rise granted on 1st January, 2014 was comparatively off the percentage granted to the Permanent Secretaries. The Confederation argues that the relativity in the pay should be maintained in the civil service. The Job Evaluation in the public service has always addressed the relativity gap. Currently there is a pay gap of around 77% between the Deputy Secretaries and the Permanent Secretaries. This gap has a follow on effect down to the lowest paid civil servants.
The last pay rise did not adequately lift the lower paid civil servants above the poverty line threshold of $16,000 per annum. Moreover, the real wage has declined by almost 40% in the last nine (9) years and further aggravated by the rising cost of consumer goods.
The implementation of the 2003 Job Review Exercise has totally excluded the core Public Service and the Teachers. The disciplined services had a windfall and they had a major retrospective gains in the salary levels and simultaneously benefitted with general salary increase given in 2014. The government as an employer of all civil servants is not seen to be fair for consistently rewarding sections of the service particularly the disciplined services vis a vis those in the civil cadre.
The Confederation firmly believes that the civil service is at the crossroads. It has been strongly criticised from various quarters for different reasons at different times. In spite of all the inherent problems it has functioned without any major deficiencies. It states that the service has been severely weakened by wastage and staff shortage especially in the professional domain. The ordinary civil servants with all the odds against them have stood the test of the time and rendered their duties honestly and diligently. This classification constitutes the bulk of the service who are seldom heard or taken note of.It further argues that whilst the government has been pursuing a public service reform programme with a lot of fury and passion it has given little priority to the terms and condition of service including pay.
The Confederation believes that the terms and conditions should be competitive enough to attract and retain talented and motivated individuals within the service. Over rigidity may not be the option at a time when the country is faced with worsening brain drain. This has been recently proven when five (5) expatriates will be appointed as Permanent Secretaries.
There is a widespread misconception that all civil service employees earn good salaries. However, on the contrary it has been assessed that number of civil servants who are earning salaries between $12,000 to $14,000 are living on a poverty line or below. In the last 12 years the inflation rate has cumulatively brought the situation far worse than what could have been imagined. The purchasing power of the dollar also needs to be taken into account when determining the salary rates. It is estimated that the real salary rate for the civil service and many other groups remains stagnant and behind by 12 years. Therefore, the salary rates in the public service needs to be reviewed in the context of the capacity of the employees to provide the basic needs for their families.
SUVA / GENEVA (15 December 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh, today called on the Government of the Republic of Fiji to modernise the legal framework in order to provide a solid basis for education policies and planning.
“Fiji has made significant strides in universalizing access to tuition-free education, and improving its quality throughout the country,” Mr. Singh said at the end of his first official visit to the country. “However, the Education Act must be updated in a comprehensive fashion to ensure that all aspects, including the right to full access to quality education, teaching conditions, and financing, are clearly defined.”
“Fiji is going through an historic period of transition in the education system to put an end to ethnic divide,” the independent expert said commending the Fijian Government for its political commitment to reforming the education system comprehensively, and “its efforts to build a better Fiji for all, with a focus on multicultural education.”
To that end, the Special Rapporteur called on the Government to ensure that the education provided is universally available to all children in rural and remote areas without discrimination, as required by human rights law, and that its laws, policies and practices are in line with state obligations for the right to education.
“The quality of education must be continuously strengthened by improving infrastructure, by students’ educational attainments, and by making the teaching profession professionally coveted and socially esteemed,” Mr. Singh noted.
“Providing free education, textbooks, and subsidized transportation for all is commendable,” he said. “Welcoming the unprecedented increase in education spending, I encourage the Government of Fiji to continue to prioritize education spending to strengthen the quality of education.”
The Special Rapporteur also acknowledged official efforts to strengthen technical and vocational education and training with innovative schemes. According to the UN expert, technical colleges are vital pathways for Fiji’s youth.
During his nine-day mission, Mr. Singh met with high level Government authorities, parliamentarians, civil society representatives and international organizations. He also visited schools, a university and technical colleges in Suva, Lautoka and Sabeto, and spoke with academics, teachers and administrators.
The Special Rapporteur will prepare a report to be presented at the UN Human Rights Council in June 2016, providing recommendations for strengthening the education system in Fiji, founded on the right to education.
(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16880&LangID=E
Kishore Singh is the Special Rapporteur on the right to education since August 2010. He is an Indian professor specialized in international law, who has worked for many years with UNESCO for the promotion of the right to education, and advised a number of international, regional and national entities on right to education issues. Throughout his career, Mr. Singh has supported the development of the right to education in its various dimensions and worked to better understanding this right as an internationally recognized right. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Education/SREducation/Pages/SREducationIndex.aspx
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.
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Source: ILO News
PARIS (ILO News) – The International Labour Organization (ILO) has welcomed the commitment by 195 countries at theCOP21 Climate Conference , to combat climate change and pave the way to a low carbon and sustainable future.
The agreement highlights in particular “the imperative of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities”.
“The world has come a long way in realizing that acting on climate change and promoting job creation and social inclusion are intertwined challenges of the 21st century, and ones that we must confront together if we are to realize the aspirations of social justice,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder, who attended COP21.
The Paris Agreement reflects an important recognition of the inter-linkages between actions to address climate change on the one hand, and employment and social inclusion on the other. It is also a call on actors in the world of work to play their part.
“The recently adopted ILO Guidelines for a transition towards a greener economy can become a powerful instrument to translate this global agreement into national policies that not only protect the environment but also create decent jobs and extend social protection,” said Ryder.
The ILO Director-General also emphasized that the ILO’s Green Initiative will be an important conduit to galvanize the engagement of the world of work in their contribution to the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
The ILO believes that the response to the global challenges of environmental protection, economic development and social inclusion must be founded on decent work and an equitable shift to sustainable development.
The greening of enterprises, workplace practices and the labour market more broadly are essential components of climate change mitigation and adaptation that is inclusive and fair for enterprises, workers and communities.
“The ILO is ready to work with our constituents – governments, workers and employers as we collectively pursue a just transition to environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all,” Ryder concluded.
The Paris deal recognizes the reality of the climate threat, but only takes us part of the way.
Climate change is already destroying lives and livelihoods with more than 2.6 million people displaced by extreme weather events and changing seasons. This will only get worse.
The Paris decisions acknowledge the challenges and move global action forward, but while the Summit conclusions refer to the target of a 1.5-degree limit, the capacity to leverage ambition on the scale required to stabilise the planet is still a question for the future.
90% of the world’s people want action on climate. Unions, civil society, responsible business and investors stood together asking for an ambitious long term goal of limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees, with a strong review mechanism to make it possible. Developing economies asked for the promised finance to assist with mitigation and adaptation. All governments were asked to respect human rights and a just transition for working people and their communities.
The Paris scorecard is compromised by countries which put the protection of their immediate national interests ahead of a sustainable planet and a common future.
The ITUC laid down 3 top lines for the Summit.
1. To raise ambition and realize the job potential of climate action
While governments committed to stay well below a 2 degrees trajectory and referenced 1.5 degrees as an ideal pathway, the realization of that commitment requires greater ambition before 2020 and a review of each national target (and not just a collective assessment) before the agreement comes into force in 2020 – MISSING
2. To deliver on climate finance and support the most vulnerable
$100billion a year is on the table, with a commitment within that to balance adaptation and emission reductions but out of the Paris Agreement. This is a small price to pay for saving the human race – WEAK
3. To commit to securing a just transition for workers and their communities
We face the biggest and most rapid industrial transformation in history. While a just transition for workers and the respect of human rights have been included in the preamble too many Governments refused to commit to it in the operational sections – A FIRST STEP ON WHICH WE WILL BUILD
Sharan burrow says ’”The race to stabilise the climate has begun but tragically, too many governments still lack ambition for the survival of their people
But trade unions know that the road was never to Paris, but through Paris and our resolve to manage a just transition in the face of the largest and most rapid industrial transformation in human history is stronger than ever.”
Arising from the COP, unions will demand of their governments and employers the dialogue that will see a national plan for decarbonisation, clean energy and jobs – a plan that includes commitments to ensure a just transition for all.
Climate justice requires us to leave no-one behind in what is now a race against time.
The Fiji Trade Union Congress (FTUC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) launched a resource guide for trade unions on child labour on 21 November, 2015. The booklet, titled ‘A Trade Union Guide to Eliminating Child Labour in Fiji’ is a practical resource guide to be used by trade union members to assist in the fight against child labour.
Speaking at the launch, Fiji Teachers Union General Secretary Mr. Agni Deo Singh highlighted the guide as a collaborative effort between the FTUC and ILO. Mr. Singh also commended the contributions of the trade union members towards the completion of the guide. “This guide for trade unions has been the realization of work on child labour throughout this year which trade union members have greatly contributed to. It also encompasses the work that the FTUC has been doing in trying to raise awareness on child labour with its members as well as in the community at large. The FTUC has worked on child labour issues with ILO on the Tackling Child Labour through Education (TACKLE) Project since 2008 and we are grateful to the European Union for funding this work. Through that funding, FTUC was able to assist approximately 1,000 children who were involved in or at risk of child labour and we look forward to continuing this work”.
ILO Officer-In-Charge and Specialist on Decent Work Strategies, Mr. Satoshi Sasaki noted that although international targets had been set for the elimination of child labour, this would not be achieved and Mr. Sasaki called for a more concerted effort from all stakeholders to eliminate child labour. He also highlighted the impact that the TACKLE project had in building capacity on combating child labour in Fiji. “In the past few years, Fiji has accumulated considerable child labour expertise and experience (on child labour). The Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations (MEPIR) has established a Child Labour Unit to coordinate and lead action against child labour. The ILO has also collaborated with other government agencies, the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation and NGOs on child labour programmes. The ILO has worked closely with the FTUC to implement child labour programmes in the Western division through the Fiji Teachers Union and has also conducted Child Labour Forums with union members earlier this year. Union members are one of the key partners in assisting to identify and report on children in child labour and they are ideally placed to monitor activities in their workplace as well as their community, raise awareness and take action against child labour.”
“A Trade Union Guide for Eliminating Child Labour in Fiji is launched today, intended for use by union members in all aspects of work on child labour. The guide has practical examples of how you can raise awareness at the community level as well as the national l level and take action against child labour. It also contains the relevant national laws and policies relating to child labour such as the Employment Relations Promulgation, the Child Welfare Decree, the Ministry of Education’s Child Protection Policy and the Crimes Decree. Users can refer to this if they come across instances of child labour.”
In closing his speech, Mr. Sasaki praised the good work being done by the FTUC and union reps in eliminating child labour and reaffirmed ILO’s commitment to provide technical support to the FTUC as required.
The FTUC pledges its strong support and solidarity to the striking Korean workers who are members of the affiliates of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions( KCTU). Their President has been arrested after a stand-off lasting 24 days. He sought shelter with monks who had given him refuge from the police.
The FTUC notes that this excessive attempted raid and subsequent arrest is part of a broader effort to intimidate the democratic labour movement ahead of mass worker protests that was scheduled for November 14 and further strike action later in the year. We note that the ILO and international labour community have continuously censured the Korean government for its violations of civil and fundamental labour right and must state once again that such acts will not be tolerated.
Police raided the offices of the KCTU/ Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union (KPTU) on November 6, attacked participants in a mass demonstration against regressive new labour legislation on November 4 and followed that up by raiding the offices of 8 KCTU affiliates on November 21.
Many people have been showing their support and solidarity to the Korean railway workers who have been on strike against privatization for more than 2 weeks. On December 22, the police raided illegally and violently the KCTU headquarters looking for KRWU (Korean Railway Workers Union) leaders for whom arrest warrants were issued. However, at the end of the brutal raid and search at every corner of the office, the police couldn’t find any of the KRWU leaders. Regardless of the heavy suppression, the strike is still very strong. KCTU is calling for a general strike on December 28 to protest the government’s brutal anti-labour behaviour.
We wish to convey our unwavering support and strength to those affected workers and their families by this continued repression by the Korean Government and pray that the sacrifices made by the members and their leader will not go unnoticed.
For further information:
[Below is the Press Statement of KCTU President Han, Sang-gyun, Dec 10, 2015]
While I may leave your side briefly, I will continue to fight with you until we have stopped the government’s regressive labour policies!
First, let me express my gratitude to the Joggye Order and the Joggye monks and followers who have experienced great inconvenience and difficulty over the past 25 days while the fate of South Korea’s 20 million workers rested in the embrace of Buddha’s mercy. I particularly thank the Joggye Order and Joggye Temple for their commitment to work with us to stop the government’s regressive labour policies upon which the survival of 20 million workers rests.
Yesterday polices forces penetrated the pure space, the sanctuary of the temple grounds without hesitation despite the expression and concern of the Joggye leadership. This is an act we cannot tolerate. December 9 will be remembered as a day of shame on which the insanity of the ROK authorities was demonstrated beyond refute.
The Park Geun-hye administration mobilised thousands of police forces to arrest me. I am not a murderer, nor have I committed a serious crime. I have not robbed or incited a riot.
I am a dismissed worker.
I have lived for the last several years knowing deep in my soul how frightening dismissal is to a common worker. My children have had to give up their dreams. My once happy family has been left in ruins.
We dismissed workers are like moths forced to wander about, drawn towards our deaths. Have not many of my colleagues already been forced to give their lives? Whose fault is this?
The government says we must keep wages low and make it easy to fire workers in order to revitalise businesses and the economy. Is a government plan by which workers must die in order for businesses to live a fair policy and law?
I am fighting to stop the government’s regressive labour policies, which will make it easy to fire workers. This is the real crime of the class 1 fugitive Han Sang-gyun who the whole country is talking about. Is this really a normal state of affairs?
I am the president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU).
Many of the press here today, impatient to get their hands on us, have been spinning out article after article over the last several days. They say the KCTU is made up of a labour aristocracy and does not represent low-wage precarious workers.
Is this really true?
The 9.8 million precarious workers in this country are fighting to survive in a jungle of a world. They spend their days without hope just trying to get by. But the legislation on precarious workers proposed by the administration and New Frontier Party will wipe out the change precarious workers now have to become permanently employed after two years and with it the only simple dream these workers have.
The administration and ruling party are also seeking to wipe out good jobs through unregulated expansion of temporary agency employment, the legalisation of a trade in people.
They are also proposing legislation that would make it a fact of life that one has to work through a temp agency after reaching the age of 50.
It should be asked, if the KCTU is only the union of a labour aristocracy, why would we be organising mass mobilisations and general strikes and enduring the severe damages and repression we are now facing in order to stop these evil bills on precarious employment?
They say that we carried out a violent protest on November 14.
Why do they not talk about the use of state force in violent suppression of this protest.
The farmer Baek Nam-gi lies in a hospital hanging between life and death as a result of a murderous water cannon used on that day. Why is no one talking about this? Did this man wield an iron pipe? Did he act violently towards the police? Why is no one taking responsibility? Why have we not heard one word of apology?
What is the real reason for labeling the KCTU a violent organisation and Han Sang-gyun the ringleader, of threatening us with charges of sedition and summoning, arresting and imprisoning hundreds of individuals in relation to one single protest? Might it not be an attempt to cover up the administration’s murderous violence?
The biggest criminal of our times is the Park Geun-hye administration, which is responsible for ruining the lives of common people. This fact was affirmed during the first and second mass mobilisations, when tens of thousands poured into the streets crying, ‘We will live like this no longer!’
It is not possible to hide the sky with the palm of one’s hand.
Even the formalistic democracy we had is now being put to death. Why is it that none of the press are talking about it?
Following this press conference I will voluntarily turn myself over to the police.
Warrants for my arrest and pre-trial detention have been issued in relation to violations of the Road Traffic Act and the Assembly and Demonstration Act. According to the scenario written out by the government, I cannot avoid imprisonment. No, I will not avoid imprisonment. But, I will clearly demonstrate the madness of the government’s repression and illegal acts in court. I will remove the flowered mask and expose the true face of this unjust government, which has only brought upon itself confusion and ridicule by threaten us with references to IS, illegal protests and sedition.
I warn the government!
Even if you carry out heretofore unheard of repression against the KCTU and imprison its president, your regressive labour policies cannot succeed.
At the formal request of the chaebols (conglomerate corporations), the administration and New Frontier Party are seeking the expansion of low-wage and precarious work, removal of restrictions on firing and the weakening of trade unions. And they are deceiving the public by packaging these measures as a plan to revive the economy. Even if this gift given to the chaebols is wrapped in the wrapping paper of ‘reform’, the government’s policies will never be real reform in the positive sense of the word.
In the upcoming general and presidential elections the whole Korean people will deliver a verdict on the anti-labour, anti-people New Frontier administration, which has declared itself clearly on the side of the chaebols and is ruining the lives of workers and common people.
In order to stop the regressive labour policies, which are a disaster not only for workers but the entire Korean people, the KCTU will take the action most feared by the government and go on general strike. This is the wish of the 20 million Korean workers and the historical duty given to us. We will proceed with our general strike with the support of the public and as part of collective struggle carried out by all common Korean people.
To the opposition party, I ask the following.
With the president acting as commander to drive forward her regressive policies, how longer are you going to keep sitting at the negotiating table weighing the situation? Is it so difficult to decide if you are going to side with the chaebols and capital or side with the workers?
The party chairman and National Assembly speaker have announced several times the party’s official opposition, but the public are still asking what your real position is. It time for you to declare that you will stop deliberation on the labour reform bills during the upcoming provisional session of the National Assembly.
The Korean people will not forgive you if you play party politics and again try to reach a deal with the administration and ruling party.
Beloved KCTU members!
I apologise. As a result of state repression, I am forced to leave you briefly without having finished the general strike action to stop the government’s labour polices, the duty which you have bestowed on me. But, even if I am detainned today, I will continue to struggle until we have stopped these policies. I will continue to fight in prison and in court.
There is not much time left before the December 16 general strike. On that day let us begin powerful general strike action and a mass movement to stop the regressive labour policies. I am determined that even though I may be in prison I will hear news of the success of our general strike in stopping the government’s policies.
This is a historic struggle, which we can and we must win. More than anyone else, I believe in you!
Valiant members fighting on the ground to defend the KCTU! I send you my love!
Let us defend the livelihoods of Korea’s 20 million workers! Struggle!
President, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions
The Great Climate Changes Swindle
PSI comments on the newly released TiSA text that limits state control over natural resources
As Heads of State prepare to negotiate an international accord in Paris against global warming, their trade negotiators are meeting in Geneva to secretly forge a new free trade agreement that could expand fossil fuels’ exploitation and cause further climate change.
Wikileaks released yet another raft of leaked texts from the secretive Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). Public Services International (PSI) and International Forum on Globalisation today released the first known analysis of the proposed Annex on Energy Related Services to inform the COP 21 climate summit.
The 23 TiSA negotiators, from Australia to Switzerland and including the US and the EU, are discussing binding clauses “denying regulators the right to distinguish solar from nuclear, wind from coal, or geothermal from fracking” by establishing the principle of ‘technological neutrality’. The meeting in Geneva – from November 30 to 4 December – will likely continue discussion on the agenda item called “Environmental Services”, discussed in October.
The proposal would “reduce states sovereignty over energy resources – says Victor Menotti, author of the study – by requiring states to establish free markets for foreign suppliers of energy related services thereby removing the right to ensure domestic economic benefits from exploiting energy resources.”
The European Commission’s website trade page says “The EU will seek to end discrimination against foreign suppliers of environmental services. This means removing the existing barriers – not just abstaining from introducing new restrictions.”
“This is the great climate change swindle. As modest targets are being discussed in Paris, in Geneva the means to achieve them are being negotiated away in the interests of the largest corporations on earth,” commented Rosa Pavanelli, PSI General Secretary. “It is becoming clear why our governments try to hide these negotiations by conducting them in secret”.
Pavanelli called on the governments to release the full texts saying “it is a scandal that we rely on Wikileaks to tell us what our governments are doing on our behalf”.
PSI has previously released research showing how the TISA will stop failed privatisations being brought back into public hands, and how it will limit governments’ ability to regulate.
The FTUC welcomes the decision of the ILO Governing Body on Fiji at its meeting in Geneva on Wednesday 11th November 2015. The Governing Body once again deliberated on the Fiji situation and the lack of progress in complying with the Tripartite Agreement of March 2015 between Government, FTUC and FCEF. The joint Agreement has six action points that parties needed to comply with. They were:
1. That all labour management relations would be governed by the ERP.
2. That all amendments would comply with the ILO Core Labour Standards.
3. That the review of the ERP conducted by the Tripartite Partners in 2013 would be acted upon.
4. That Government would reinstate Check-off (Union Dues deduction)
5. That all the above would be done within a certain time-frame i.e. Legislative amendments to Parliament by end of August 2015 and implementation by end of October 2015
6. That the Parties to the Agreement would submit a joint report to the June 2015 session of the GB.
The Government failed to comply with the above provisions and unilaterally decided upon some amendments to the ERP. As such, no joint report could be made to the Governing Body in June 2015. No meetings were convened despite many requests from FTUC and FCEF. On the eve of this Governing Body meeting, Government convened a reconstituted ERAB meeting which FTUC refused to attend. The Agenda was to rubber stamp a report that Government prepared to the Governing Body. The Government and others, however, met and decided on a monthly meeting to address the violations. Based on this decision, Government attempted through the Asia Pacific Government Grouping (ASPAG) at the ILO to defer the report of any Tripartite Delegation to Fiji to June 2016 and a decision on the Commission of Inquiry by November 2016. This Resolution was put to the Governing Body by the Australian Government and was defeated. Employers, EU and many other Governments supported the Resolution that was originally tabled. This Resolution reiterates its regret to the continuing failure to submit a joint report from Government, FTUC and FCEF. It is noteworthy that the decision recognizes the parties to the joint report that the ILO is seeking. Government is not at liberty to call in whoever it wants to sign on to a joint report. In this respect, the FTUC calls upon Government to disband its new ERAB and re-constitute the original ERAB to meet without delay. FTUC will not be a party to Governments efforts to dilute representative rights to FTUC and FCEF. Such actions on part of Government only serve to undermine the parties to the Geneva Agreement and weaken the social partners.
The GB Decision also now calls on Government to accept a Tripartite Mission to Fiji to review the ongoing obstacles to a joint report and observance of the ILO Core Conventions. Having noted that in the past, there were considerable difficulties in gaining agreement of Government for ILO Missions, the GB also decided that should the Mission not be able to visit Fiji and submit a report by March 2016, then the March 2016 GB should decide on a Commission of Inquiry. The Governing Body has also decided that Fiji would be on the agenda of its March 2016 meeting.
The FTUC and the Workers Group at the ILO also considers the decision to also recognize the efforts of the Minister for Labour and to give him an opportunity to comply with the Agreement signed. We also welcome the efforts of the Minister for Labour and look forward to working with him and FCEF. We reiterate that work on this must begin without delay and not on the eve of the next GB meeting.
This decision gives Government another opportunity to act upon the Agreement without delay. This is an opportunity for Government to do the right thing for Fiji and her international reputation. Failure to act would have serious negative impact on the Country. It cannot simply sit back and play mischief with workers and blaming Unions and its leaders as holding the country to ransom or holding a gun to Government’s head. It must take full responsibility for its failure to act. The Government would be shooting itself in the foot if it does not take up this opportunity.
‘No quality learning’
Source: Fiji Times
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
THE Fiji Teachers Union claims there was no quality learning in schools around the country because of the late arrival of textbooks and other hiccups in the Education Ministry.
FTU general secretary Agni Deo Singh made the comment yesterday as Education Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy condemned reports by this newspaper regarding the non-delivery of textbooks to schools in Fiji.
Dr Reddy said there were more than 900 schools in the country and the geographical spatial distribution of schools posed challenges this newspaper was not aware of, adding that even though some schools may have not received all textbooks, copies were still made available to schools for teachers to make lesson preparations.
“Communication and transport problems are other issues to consider and The Fiji Times has put it in such a manner that the Ministry of Education is failing in its duty.
“We have with us verification that schools have received their textbooks and I am not sure where The Fiji Times is getting their information from,” Dr Reddy said.
“I hope that The Fiji Times will look at issues from a more realistic and holistic view. They need to face reality and at least report on the positives that has come out on the recent reforms, which is aimed at improving the delivery of educational services,” concluded the minister.
But Mr Singh refuted Dr Reddy’s comments.
“While we understand all the excuses he is giving, he knew of all these challenges when he made this unrealistic commitment and we had brought this to the attention of the ministry on numerous occasions during the first term when until April, less than half the textbooks had been distributed.
“And as late as the beginning of the second term, many schools were not adequately resourced with textbooks,” Mr Singh said.
“And of course now towards the end of the year, The Fiji Times has been able to identify some schools that are still yet to receive textbooks. Now it is 12 months down the line, I don’t think the excuse the minister is giving now holds any water.”