New Zealand High Commission Suva, Fiji
Opening of Nananu village kindergarten
A productive partnership between the Fiji Water Foundation, New Zealand High Commission and the people of Nananu Village in Tailevu was celebrated on Thursday June 24th with the opening of the village’s “Gaunavou” Kindergarten - a $35,000 project.
Located between RKS and Natovi landing, Nananu is home to about 200 community members. A kindergarten was first established in the village community hall in 2005, but classes were often cancelled as they competed for space with other events and meetings. The school was also unable to officially register with the Ministry of Education, thereby gaining access to grants, teacher salary, and teacher education programmes that would make the kindergarten more sustainable.
U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer Ashley Kramer has been based in Nananu since 2008 and has assisted the community in establishing a kindergarten committee, with the goal of working and fundraising to build a stand-alone kindergarten. After applying for assistance in 2009, the committee was thrilled to receive a FIJI Water Foundation grant of $28,000 for the building. Building materials were provided by the FIJI Water Foundation, while all labor was provided and managed by Nananu and the kindergarten committee.
Initially, construction was moving along well, but due in part to the devaluation of the Fiji dollar, the planned budget fell short. Fortunately, the New Zealand High Commission came on board to provide an additional $7,000 funding to complete the school toilet block and septic tank as well as other necessities, including fencing and a footpath. At the ceremony, Col. Pio Tikoduadua announced that the Fiji government would donate furniture to the school as well.
Among the guests welcomed on Thursday were Mr. David Roth, FIJI Water’s Director of External Affairs, Mr. Peter Lund, New Zealand Trade Commissioner, Col. Pio Tikoduadua, Permanent Secretary to the Prime Minister and a local son, as well as representatives from Vinod Patel and U.S. Peace Corps. In their speeches, all the guests noted that this project represented a fantastic success of private, public, and community partnership, one which should be replicated throughout Fiji.
Nananu chief Jone Bulewagaga said that the project has been a great success because of villagers’ willingness to work hard without pay for the betterment of the village and the future of all their children. The new kindergarten has also generated enthusiasm for Early Childhood Education. Since the project began a school bank account has been created, regular fundraisers have collected funds for learning materials, the class size has doubled from 16 to 32 children, and regular school attendance has improved by more than 30%. The committee is now working on registering the school.
As Ms. Kramer articulated, “The building is more than a structure in which to hold class. It is more than an item on the checklist of requirements to successfully register a kindergarten with the Ministry. The new kindergarten building is a visible manifestation of the community’s desire to give their children the best they have.” As one community member said, “I want my children to know, I built your school. This is my gift to you.”