Hosted by a squatter village high up in the hills, overlooking the Suva harbour visible in the distance was another joyous occasion. The children and village people welcomed us as we walked the trails to their community building for a cultural experience extraordinaire. This Melanesian village is scheduled for a new housing development sometime in the next 5-years, according to the rumours, because of its picturesque views of the sea. Yet it has been the life-long home for these charming people we mingled with. The kava ceremony was actually an honour, the meal of freshly cooked fish and ‘lovu’ (Fijian-hangi) of chickens and meats, along with the fresh fruits, was amazing considering their poverty. Followed by a Fijian dance and dancing involving the whole village concluded another inspiring day.
Earlier in the day we had visited the Anglican Schools especially focusing on educating many of the students from the surrounding squatter villages. Being welcomed by the student’s choir of heavenly voices harmonising was heart-warming.
‘Mata’ is sitting at home but he wants to come back to school”, and with that comment the newly appointed Principal Mika, went to find out ‘why’ he wasn’t coming back to school. Visiting him, he discovered his Uncle could not afford the annual high school fees of Fj$230/ NZ$180. Mika recognising the unique role this Anglican school has in supporting students from low socio-economic backgrounds, encouraged the student back to his studies. Living with his uncle who has 10 children of his own meant there wasn’t enough money for furthering his education. He only recently met his Mum for the first time and has never seen his Dad, yet he wants to do well at school. His dream is to become a doctor.
Basten College has struggled to offer a full range of studies, and has a goal to establish a vocational training centre. This is to train in employment-related skills for apprenticeships, tourism, retailing and business. Planning is well underway.
We then visited the e-learning centre at the University where specially designed laptops for primary school aged children in developing countries are being trialled. Our team, and especially the teachers of our team, were impressed with how clever these computers were and the impact they will have in lifting the education of students here. Now to get these laptops to these children in these villages.
This school and university were further examples of the Fijian faith they have to believe in greater things beyond their human capabilities. Just like the Tin Cathedral faith vision the day before, it is challenging our Golden Oldies in how we should respond to these inspiration education visions.