Churches attack Government's open merit practice in faith-based schools
LITIA CAVA19 January, 2019, 1:03 pm
Catholic School's heads and administrators present during their meeting at Sacred Heart Cathedral on Thursday, January 17, 2019. Picture: JONA KONATACI
TWO major faith-based organisations which run a number of schools in the country have joined forces to openly criticise Government on its decision to appoint school heads based on open merit recruitment and selection (O MRS) guidelines.
Methodist Church in Fiji president the Rev Dr Epineri Vakadewavosa and the head of the Catholic Church of Fiji, Archbishop Peter Loy Chong said the Education Ministry must add faith-based merit criteria to its OMRS system.
Mr Vakadewavosa said the displacement of preferred candidates for leadership positions prevented church schools from providing quality education and undermined human and constitutional rights.
“We have lost key school positions held previously by our own members, along with the expected diligence in our institutions for Methodist education and nurturing.
“The school system already fails to sustain students in their faith, the society's ills highlighted by the police, corrections and health services are testimony to the harm ultimately caused.
“The school leaders are the ones who decide what is done in school in religious matters,” he said.
Archbishop Chong said as part of the consultation with his advisers, the Archdiocese considered civil disobedience which would include an open-air mass; and to close their 44 primary and 19 secondary schools.
Archbishop Chong said during a meeting with Catholic school educationists on Thursday, the participants offered the following courses of action for the Bishop to discern as he planned his next strategy.
He said a recommendation to initiate a critical self-reflection and an organisational review on Catholic education in the areas of identity, character, quality of teachers was proposed, the selection criteria of the principal must include the responsibility of supporting and promoting the ethos and values of faith-based schools.
“To take an aggressive and urgent stand on the church's request to consider faith as a merit when considering appointments of heads of schools.”
The Arya Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji in a statement stated it had always maintained that the head of its schools be a teacher of merit.
“As much as it is desired that the head of its schools should be a teacher who belongs to our faith, the Sabha is and has been of the view that this may not be possible in every case given the social circumstance.
“The Sabha, however, maintains that the ministry must consult the management on the appointment of the school head to ensure that the incumbent fits in and upholds the school's culture along with academic requirements.”