Fiji's Highschool Students Learn to Care
01 December 2003

The South Pacific island nation of Fiji has experienced three coups d’etat since 1987.

The South Pacific island nation of Fiji has experienced three coups d’etat since 1987. These have highlighted tensions between indigenous Fijians and those of Indian extraction, many of whose forebears were brought to the country as indentured labour by Britain, the former colonial power.

During the last ten years over 20,000 highschool students have taken part in an initiative aimed at bridging Fiji’s divisions and building a better country. The programme is conducted by Foundations of a Better Fiji, a joint venture of ‘Fiji-I care!’ and Initiatives of Change. It challenges students to live up to absolute moral values of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love, and ‘to adopt a daily practice of quiet reflection on the initiatives of change they could take’.

The students’ response has been so positive that there has been a series of weekend training workshops. In July Ratu Tui Cavuilati, the Permanent Secretary of the Public Service Commission, who is responsible for 26,000 civil servants, spoke about how applying the values of Initiatives of Change 20 years ago had turned his life around. Two weeks later he hosted the students in his village-an experience which they found inspirational.

Other visiting speakers have included former High Court Judge and High Chief Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi; well-known NGO activist Jone Dakuvula; and former extreme Fijian nationalist, Ratu Meli Vesikula.

Over half of the students taking part in the school programmes have expressed their discoveries in a voluntary questionnaire. One wrote, ‘Firstly I will have to forgive myself. Secondly I will have to forgive others and seek their forgiveness. And lastly, I will have to be an open-minded person in everything I do.... I made the first step admitting with others that I was in the wrong. I had to humble myself and not think that I was in the right all the time.’

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