Education PS defends policy
LITIA CAVA19 January, 2019, 3:35 pm
Catholic School's heads and administrators present during their meeting at Sacred Heart Cathedral on Thursday, January 17, 2019. Picture: JONA KONATACI
A HEATED argument broke out between Education Ministry permanent secretary Alison Burchell and stakeholders of Catholic schools during a meeting at the Sacred Heart Cathedral crypt in Suva on Thursday night.
The arguments from the stakeholders were based on the fact that the appointment of a school leader must not only be based on the applicant's ability to satisfy the knowledge, experience, skills and abilities that were identified in the ministry's open merit recruitment and selection (OMRS) system, but the word ‘faith' must also be embedded in the selection criteria of school heads.
Corpus Christi Teachers College principal Remesio Rogovakalali argued that the policy does not state any faith, beliefs or values.
He said faith-based schools not only looked after the interest of students' physical well-being, but also their spiritual wellbeing.
He said having such a principal would help ensure that students' wellbeing were well looked after.
Catholic educationist Mere Fong said they were aware that faith could never be mentioned in the interview process nor in the documentation.
“We can leave out the word faith and refer instead to attitudes that reflect universal values (love, dedication, respect, peace, kindness, courtesy, etc) to which we all espouse; this should be added to the requirements in the job description,” Ms Fong said.
In her response, Ms Burchell said the Constitution clearly stated that all schools would be open to students from all faiths and that teachers would also be included.
“We note students of different religions in your Catholic schools, we have teachers of all religions and that to me enriches technicality, the different views, the outlook of the school and in particular the students,” Ms Burchell said.
“The fact is that we are a secular state and we need to understand what that means when we operate, so the religious instruction component is different from the issue of appointing a head of school.
“The rich diversity in Fiji and each of our schools — we need to make sure that we are feeding their thirst for knowledge and should not be restricted to a particular faith, but taking in the value that could be added and should be added and must be added by the different faith.
“It is an added value to the process as we see it,” she said.