Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Primary School Libraries in Fiji: A Research Report

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Primary School Libraries in Fiji: A Research Report

Article excerpt

A survey of primary school libraries in Fiji found that unsuitable facilities, lack of library training, and inadequate collections make it difficult for staff to provide adequate library services. The situation is worse in rural schools than in urban ones, and most respondents expressed the need for more material support and training.

Introduction: Schools In Fiji

Fiji has several types of schools: committee-run schools, religious schools, government schools, and private schools. Of the 709 primary schools in the country, 695 are managed by committees (Fiji Times, December 24, 1997). Committee schools may be set up by a religious group. For example, there are many schools run by particular Hindu groups or sects. Christian denominations such as Methodist, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Seventh Day Adventist, and Assemblies of God churches also have schools throughout the country. As well, schools organized and managed by Muslim communities are found in many parts of the two major islands. In some parts of the country, one finds community schools that are not affiliated with any religious groups. There are also a few schools that are financed by and completely under government control, and there are a few private schools. The largest of these is the International School in Suva. Although schools are managed by religious groups or committees, they are interracial, intersocial, and interreligious by law. There are no set school boundaries to which parents must adhere; thus parents have the right to send their children to any school they wish.

In government-run schools, the government is responsible for providing buildings and for funding the upkeep of the schools. All schools, with the exception of the International Schools, receive a subsidy of $30.00 per student per year, which is used to purchase materials and resources for classrooms. Any other money that is required by the schools must be raised by the schools. Schools can apply for aid from the Ministry of Education to build new classrooms, toilet blocks, a bus shelter, or canteen, or for improving the school compound. An application form must be completed, but that in itself does not mean aid will be forthcoming. In any given year, there may be a considerable number of applicants, and school committees may find their applications have not been approved.

With the exception of the International Schools, schools cannot charge fees. However, schools carry out fundraising activities, and parents are required to pay a school building or maintenance fee each year. Fee structures vary from school to school, and the amount charged may be by individual child or by family. Fundraising may be for any number of specific projects, including the purchase of sports equipment, team uniforms, science equipment, library books, or building a library. In the last few years, there have been many complaints from parents about the amount of time spent on fundraising.

Although most teachers are part of the Civil Service, there is also a group known as grant-in-aid teachers. These are teachers hired on a yearly basis if they are needed, and as positions open in the Civil Service, they are taken in on a quota basis. Since the military coups of 1987, there has been a consistent shortage of qualified teachers, as many of the better qualified teachers migrated overseas, mainly to Australia and New Zealand. Today, the shortage of qualified teachers is still a serious problem.

Class enrollments, particularly in urban centers, are large. A Fiji Teachers' Union study showed that 80% of the urban schools had more than 50 students in each class, making teaching extremely difficult (Fiji Times, May 1, 1998, p. 1).

Examinations have always played an important role in the education systems throughout the South Pacific. National examinations are written at various levels in both primary and secondary schools. A good school is judged not just by the number of passes in the national examinations, but on the number of A grade passes it receives. …

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