13 October 2016: Media Release – Zoning Policy is Dictatorial
The Minister for Education is resorting to thuggery and dictatorship in forcibly implementing his ill-conceived zoning policy for students attending primary and secondary schools in the country.
His comment in today’s (Thursday 13th October) Fiji Times that he will “fix” school principals and head teachers who allow students from outside their so-called zones by refusing to pay the per capita student grant is symptomatic of a tin pot dictator. Flip-flop policies and political immorality have been the hallmark of this Education Minister ever since he assumed office more than two years ago.
It must be remembered that on this zoning policy the Minister last year said students who chose to attend schools outside their zones would not be entitled to free bus fares beyond the bus fare stages in their zones. Now he has gone a step further and is threatening to withhold taxpayers’ funds and denying students quality education who are enrolled in schools not within their locality.
This is shameful and despicable. He has consistently used threats against all and sundry associated with education including school management. Now he is threatening to “fix” principals and head teachers. The Minister must remember that per capita grant is not his personal money but taxpayers’ funds. Students who attend any school throughout the country are entitled to and also receive the same capita grant as students who enroll in institutions in their own zones.
Section 31 of the 2013 Constitution that the Education Minister is vociferously promoting has no limitations whatsoever as far as the right to education is concerned. Section 31(5) clearly stipulates that Government must justify it does not have the resources to apply this right if it claims it does not have the resources.
Nowhere does it state that Government can withhold resources and deny a child the right to education. Therefore the Minister’s threat to withhold per capita grant is unconstitutional. Once again the right to education and access to grant is not the personal property of the Minister.
The freedom to choose schools and access to quality education is a fundamental right of parents and students in accordance with the Education Act, and not the Minister’s dictatorial zoning policy. This right is being duly recognised by school heads. For example the 5th, 6th and 7th Forms of Labasa College were established to cater for students from throughout Vanua Levu, not just the locality within the College.
This Education Minister has become an unmitigated disaster and a national embarrassment. It is amazing that the Prime Minister continues to have him as the Education Minister despite his tearing to shreds government’s notion of common and equal citizenry by either implementing or threatening to implement warped and illogical policies to the detriment of the entire education sector.
For the sake of our education sector and access to quality education for our students, the Prime Minister must accept our proposal for an Education Commission together with a parliamentary inquiry into the Education Ministry.
Hon Prof Biman Prasad Leader
You can find the MoE policy on Zoning here, an excerpt is reproduced here: