THE Seventh-day Adventist Church has joined other faith-based organisations to call on Government for faith-based organisations to be included in the recruitment process of their schools.
This year, after three years of pleading with Government to consider faith or religion as a criteria in the selection of teachers and school leaders appointed to Seventh-day Adventist schools, the church has chosen to privatise Navesau High School in Tailevu.
General secretary of the Adventist church in Fiji, Pastor Joe Talemaitoga says the church supports the call made by the head of the Catholic church recently to include faith as a criteria in the selection of leaders for faith-based schools.
Mr Talemaitoga said the church was now financing the salaries of 18 former civil servants who were recruited by the church to teach at Navesau.
“The church now pays for the salaries of teachers and ancillary staff and accepts the fact that no grant (free education grant) will be provided by the Ministry of Education,” Mr Talemaitoga said.
Dr Nemani Tausere, the director of education for the church in Fiji, said the church had written to the Education Ministry and had discussions with the former and current permanent secretaries, Minister for Education and the Prime Minister to consider faith or religion as a criteria in the selection of teachers and school leaders appointed to Seventh-day Adventist schools, but on all occasions their request was denied.
“The church commends the MOE on the introduction of the open merit recruitment system (OMRS). However, the church believes that in the field of education, unlike some other departments in government, the Ministry of Education should consider an additional and important criteria in the selection process of teachers and school heads,” Dr Tausere said.
He says more than 95 per cent of schools in Fiji are owned and operated by faith-based organisations and it would be only advisable and respectful that faith be included in the recruitment criteria of school heads.
“The role of teachers and especially school leaders in the operation of schools is vital and pivotal in the total development of a child — mentally, physically, socially, and morally,” Dr Tausere said.
“As a faith-based organisation, we believe that the OMRS criteria used — knowledge, experience, skills and ability (KESA) — falls short of what is most important and meaningful in the life of each person who wants to commit his or her best to the position he is applying for in the delivery of quality education to our children for a better Fiji.”
As part of its action plan, the Catholic Church Archdiocese was now considering a civil disobedience mass and to close its 44 primary and 19 secondary schools.
The Arya Pratinidhi Sabha 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.
The Methodist Church says that the displacement of its preferred candidates for leadership positions prevents faith-based schools from providing quality education and undermines human and constitutional rights.
Questions sent to the Fiji Muslim League and the Assemblies of God church last Friday on their stance regarding this issue remained unanswered when this edition went to press last night.