We arrived in Fiji last night on an Air Pacific flight from Brisbane. After a 45 min taxi driver from Nadi International airport, we got to our hotel it was almost 9 PM. This morning we had to the school. It was the first day of term 3. There was a staff meeting in progress when we got there. Shashi- the headteacher and his staff warmly welcomed us. This meeting was in the new library block which was built through the support of the people of Japan. To my knowledge this was probably the first time the school had received aid of this sort from a foreign government.
We explained to the teachers why we were there–our main objective was to see if we could help them design and implement their classroom activities using computers. We also indicated that we would like to set up their school library with a simple cataloguing system so that children could borrow and read books on a weekly basis. I was given the opportunity to talk to the teachers in small groups. So I had groups meetings with teachers in year 1&2, 3&4, and 5&6. The approach that I adopted was to look at the work that they were going to do that week or the week after. The program in Fiji across all the year levels is quite well-defined. Achievement indicators are clearly listed for each of the activities. Classroom based assessments (CBA) are a very important part of the school curriculum – it is a shift from term exams – an assessment practice which had long dominated the school landscape. So we settled on one activity for each of the three groups. Purposely I chose not to create any extra work for the teachers. Everywhere in the world – there is too much for teachers to do – if new ideas can be blended with existing frameworks then it more likely to succeed in classrooms. The teachers seemed to be very motivated and eager to engage.
Our understanding prior to our arrival was that the school did not have any library resources. But to our surprise most of the shelves in the library appeared reasonably filled. However, the problem was many of these books were old textbooks and class sets. I was amazed to see class set of three books – Fiji the land and its people, Stories of Famous People and World History. I used these books when I was a student at Naidovi in Year 5 and 7. When I was in Year 7 the World History became obsolete because in 1971 we became one of the trial schools for Social Studies – so history was no longer taught. While these books may still have had some aspects of the content which was still relevant, these books were showing signs of aging. Many had gone past their use by date.
On the whole today was a relief – after months of agonising on how we would be received by the teachers – the signs were around were very positive. After almost 25 years – we had re-entered a school in Fiji – we were pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome.