Fiji Time Online
Monday, January 11, 2010
A RISING number of school dropouts within two years has prompted a desperate search for funds to give Rabi island children a fair chance at education.
The Banaban Children's Fund was established recently and is an attempt to ensure that all island children of school age are in school.
A poverty survey conducted by the island council's social welfare department revealed that parents with several children are forced to send only their "smarter" children to secondary school.
There have been reportedly 200 drop-outs on the island in the past two years.
Department officer Radhika Teaoka said the survey showed that when the time came for several siblings to attend secondary school, parents limited by poverty, choose those who move ahead with their education.
"That's unfair because every child has the right to education but for these parents it's a matter of affordability," she said.
"They simply cannot send their children to school so if they have several children in primary school the smarter ones get to move on to secondary.
"Most of the island's young population are school dropouts."
Ms Teaoka said for many families education was secondary.
"Poverty is rife on the island that for many meeting their basic needs is a difficulty," she said.
School dropouts are mostly from the forms three, four and five and some from form seven.
"These are smart children who could have gone on to tertiary level education but their parents can no longer support their education," she said.
"So this fund is about finding sponsors because if these children can finish their education than they can help Rabi island to be a better place one day."
Fundraising activities to be carried out at Uma, Tabiang, Buakonikai and Tabwewa will be a means of obtaining money.
"We are looking to Fiji and the rest of the world, anyone that can help in any way -- books, stationery, or money," she said.