The changing times and Methodist education

Suva, FIJI – May 27, 2020: 9.55am (Nuku’alofa Times/MCIF Media): The only school that’s offering classes to exam-year students in Fiji will roll out programs for other lower grades if the countrywide school closure continues.

Dudley High School, which launched its virtual learning platform for Year 12 and Year 13 students on May 11, revealed during a panel discussion on John Wesley Day on Sunday to celebrate the life of the founder of the Methodist Church and the beginning of its education system in the country that it was ready to bridge the gap to ensure education for all its students who are stuck at home awaiting Government approval for the resumption of school.

School vice principal Mrs Nanise Tuimanono, when asked by moderator, veteran Fiji journalist Iliesa Tora, now the editor/publisher of Nuku’alofa Times and host of FM Malo e Lelei, said they were ready to ensure their children received lessons while at home.

The school’s e-learning platform has given its 300 exam-year students a chance to keep abreast of lessons while the rest of the schools around the country are closed.

The platform has reached all its students, she added.

It has reached a viewership of 95,000, which includes other schools from around the country.

Methodist schools around the country, among others are taking advantage of the lessons provided by the teachers of Dudley.

Mrs Tuimanono, who stood in for principal Sanjay Prasad during the panel, broadcast live on the church’s Facebook page, said teachers who came in to do the classes did so out of passion for their students.

She said it signified the school’s commitment to uphold the principles of Wesley’s vision for a holistic education for students in Methodist schools.

Church historian Reverend Marika Bale said it was heart-warming to see that a Methodist school, headed by a principal of another faith, was a pioneer on a new learning platform to ensure education not only for its students but other schools as well.

School manager Thomas Prasad said their school had a vision to uphold Wesley’s mission and that it was its own initiative and one that was being shared with other schools that requested to be linked to Dudley’s Facebook page.

He said that the framework upon which the school operated ensured its Methodist ideals were followed and, in true Christian spirit, lessons were shared with other students who were not as fortunate as its own, including those from other religions.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has stated schools would only reopen once the country was COVID-19 free.

In the event if the school closure is extended, Mrs Tuimanono said there was a possibility they could start lessons for Year 9, Year 10 and Year 11 students so they too did not miss out.

Mr Prasad said people may not have food at home during this pandemic crisis but every home had a mobile phone that students could access the lessons from.

The lessons have also been shared to Tonga who have particularly requested English and Maths lessons for Year 12 and Year 13 students.

Reverend Bale said it was encouraging to hear the principal was upholding and see Wesley’s Christian caring and sharing education ideals alive and praised the school for its initiative.

Parents from other schools in Suva and teachers from outer islands in the Lau Group have turned up at the school to download lessons to take home and back to the islands.

One teacher from Cicia Secondary School said he would visit his students in the five villages on the island and on nearby Nayau Island with a laptop to show students the lessons.

Wesleyan missionaries introduced education in the country, beginning with a school on Lakeba in Lau in 1835.

They then did the same at Nasima, Somosomo, in Taveuni in 1841.

They then started a school on Viwa Island in 1842 to 1848

In 1949, missionaries started classes again on Lakeba at Bucainabua.

Eight years later, they arrived in Rewa and started a school at Mateisuva.

In 1861, they established the Richmond Theological Institute (now Richmond High School) on Kadavu.

In  1873, a school was set up at Navuloa in Tailevu on land belonging to the Toranibati and Roko Tui Kiuva.

This was where the idea to set up a school for sons of chiefs so they could be educated in leadership so they could spread the gospel across the provinces when their time to lead came.

Years later, Queen Victoria School was set up at nearby Matavatucou to cater for this.

On December 16, 1907, the church set up the Davuilevu Theological Institution, where the Lelean High School now sits, to train local missionaries and teachers to continue Wesley’s Christian education mission.

The following year it moved nearby where it is located today.

The Methodist Church is the largest Christian denomination in the country with a 250,000-odd membership.

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