Australia and UNICEF Support Ministry of Education for Better Health and Learning
19 May 2014: Students of Ratu Meli Memorial School can now enjoy new water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities thanks to assistance received through the Ministry of Education, Live and Learn Environmental Education, UNICEF Pacific and the Australian government.
Ratu Meli Memorial School on Nacula Island in the Yasawa Group underwent renovations valued at almost $72,000 as part of the WASH in Schools Project, which represents a $3 million dollar investment by the Australian Government to improve WASH facilities in 15 disadvantaged schools in Fiji. The project is implemented through a partnership between the Ministry of Education, UNICEF Pacific and Live and Learn Environmental Education.
The renovations at Ratu Meli School included work on the school’s boys’ and girls’ WASH facilities, school buildings and classrooms, as well as to the boarding dormitory and its toilet and bathroom facilities. Additionally, Live and Learn provided training on the proper use and maintenance of the new facilities.
“It is very encouraging to know that the 116 girls and boys at Ratu Meli Memorial School will have access to clean water, proper child friendly sanitation and hygiene facilities while pursuing their studies in school,” Australian High Commission First Secretary Pamela Larkin told guests at the handover event at Ratu Meli Memorial School on Friday 16 May.
She added that improved health and safety conditions would encourage better learning outcomes while promoting gender equity and safe hygiene practices amongst Nacula communities.
“Today will mark a new era for the education of our children and your contributions will be felt over many future generations,” local chief Turaga na Tui Drola, Ratu Epeli Vuetibau Bogileka told development stakeholders in his vote of thanks.
“We are very lucky to be given the opportunity to receive such a wonderful blessing. It’s really like a dream to us to have modern classrooms and also the newly renovated restroom facilities, including the walkway.”
Ratu Epeli also acknowledged the contributions of students, teachers and parents, as well as the construction contractors.
"Lack of clean water and safe toilets can lead to diarrhoea, skin and eye infections, and other communicable diseases, which in turn cause children to miss school or have trouble focusing when they do attend,” said Marc Overmars, UNICEF Pacific Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Specialist.
"Through our WASH and Education Programmes, we work with students, parents, schools, governments and other partners to make sure all children have access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities at school."
Mr Overmars concluded that good facilities and teaching healthy habits ensure that all teachers and students, but particularly girls, benefit from a healthy and safe learning environment.