SUVA, Fiji – The Catholic Church in Fiji is prepared to shut down all of its 44 primary and 19 secondary schools if the government continues to elect non-Catholics as the head of those schools.
Fiji’s education ministry recently named two non-Catholics as principals of Saint Thomas High in Lautoka and Xavier College in Ba. Education Minister Rosy Akbar said the decisions were part of the country’s merit-based recruitment system, and that the Church can privatize its schools if it disagrees with the move, the London-based Christian radio station Premier reported.
The Church is now calling for greater autonomy in the governance of its schools.
After a meeting held last Thursday, Archbishop Peter Loy Chong of Suva said he is prepared to close the local schools, but will only do so if Catholic leaders and government authorities cannot arrive at a solution, according to Premier.
At the meeting, four possible courses of action were identified: initiating a “critical self-reflection and an organisational review of Catholic education in the areas of identity, character, quality of teachers and planning”; working toward partnership with the government; demanding that the government take faith into account when appointing heads of schools; and engaging in civil disobedience, which would include closing the nation’s 63 Catholic schools.
The Fiji Sun reported that Permanent Secretary for Education Alison Burchell has said the government is open to more discussions and is dedicated to finding the most appropriate person for the job.