Adi Cakobau, Ratu Kadavulevu and Queen Victoria Schools will from next year only cater for students from remote areas in a one-eyed plan to level the playing field for Indian students.
All three schools have been prominent for providing quality education and producing great Fijian leaders, many who have gone on to become CEOs, Ministers, Prime Ministers and Presidents of Fiji.
They have also produced notable sports players.
But Education Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy says the boarding schools were originally meant to cater for students who hailed from the interior and remote outer islands.
He said lately, this privilege had been abused by students within urban areas whom he referred to as the elite group.
"I want to announce today that next year, no boarding space will be given to students from urban areas or the elite in all facilities in the government boarding schools such as QVS, ACS, RKS and the likes.
"Boarding schools will only be reserved for children that come from the remote outer islands or the interior of our mainland.
"Children in urban areas are expected to get their education from the many nearby schools available to them in their areas."
|Ratu Kadavulevu School|
Queen Victoria School (QVS) was established in 1906 initially to provide education to the sons of Fijian Chiefs but over the years students have been multiracial.
Ratu Kadavulevu School (RKS) is said to be the largest of the three boarding schools. Its students are multiracial, but predominantly Fijian.
Former students of the three schools have vowed to 'save our schools'.
One former student wrote:
1. The three schools mentioned were not established for the reasons claimed by the Minister. The reasons for their respective establishment are facts that are well documented, and it would do the Minister good, to do his own research on this. The National Archives; for which he is Minister should have irrefutable information on this. I think that the Minister has either been ill-advised or has just been plain ignorant of the facts.
2. Although the three schools have primarily educated Itaukei students over the years, they have all also had the privilege of having students of other ethnicity, and indeed international backgrounds.
3. When the three schools were established, the Itaukei race was still largely rural based, and this is probably where the Minister's claim is originating from. However; there have been significant social and demographic shifts in the decades since. This is a fact that must be recognized.
4. The three schools, and indeed any school in Fiji; have never had any policy that excluded any student based on ethnicity, religious belief, social class, or family residential address. Any such policy would be discriminatory. I have never seen or experienced during my years at one the three schools mentioned; any evidence that it catered only to a certain class of people. There was always a healthy and balanced mix of students from different social backgrounds. In fact, in didn't matter who you were or who your parents were, or whether your home was in the city or the village; if you qualified through gaining the required standards, then that was all that mattered. That is the way it should remain.
5. There are other government boarding schools that have students / boarders who come from urban based families. Will this policy apply to those schools as well ?
6. Does the Minister realise that by implementing such a policy, the three schools will be greatly and unfairly disadvantaged, as they will not be able to accept a student who might be eminently academically capable, or possessing outstanding athletic abilities; simply because his or her family resides in a certain part of the country?
7. Has the Minister considered the great disruption that this policy will cause ? Given that (a) thousands of parents and students will have to all of a sudden look for alternative schools (b) immediate and medium term plans and strategies of schools in areas such as sports, student leadership, etc; will be thrown into disarray. The Minister must remember that schools are made up of more than just books, buildings, and facilities. Although government is the legal owner of the three schools; it is important for us to ask the question; Who is the government ? I would dare suggest that ultimately the government is ....The People.
8. Ultimately this is an issue that challenges parents' and students' freedom to choose the school that they want to patronize or enrol at. On that basis; it should not be an issue of concern only for Students, Parents and Alumni of Adi Cakobau School, Queen Victoria School, and Ratu Kadavulevu School, but should be for stakeholders of every school in Fiji.