Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa has hit back at Education Minister Mahendra Reddy over his reported reaction to a legitimate concern by Namosi Secondary School Principal Filomena Usa, about the use of the Fijian language in classrooms for clarity and explanation.
Ro Teimumu said Minister Reddy’s response to school Principal Usa was insulting and typical of a Government that has banned the Fijian language from Parliament. The Opposition Leader said instead of barking aggressively about Principal Usa, Mr Reddy would be well advised to listen carefully to what she was saying.
“I take great offence at his dismissive attitude to our Fijian language but I am not entirely surprised,” she said.
Ro Teimumu said the Minister was wrong if he thought communities around the world were ready to sacrifice their mother tongue in favor of English.
“Yes, English is the international language and the language of global business and our children must be proficient in it. This does not mean that indigenous languages should be consigned to history. The Fijian language is a treasure and a symbol of an entire culture. Mr Reddy must understand this.”
Ro Teimumu said even Mr Reddy himself conversed in Hindi generally and switched to English when the need arose. This often happened in multi-lingual societies.
She said the leaders of the two most populous countries on the planet, the Prime Minister of India and President of China, both made official speeches in Fiji in their native tongues.
According to Ro Teimumu, children who are proficiently bilingual have a definite advantage. It is incumbent on the Government, she said, to encourage this. In fact according to the linguist Professor Paul Geraghty earlier this month and this was supported by the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs that the Indigenous people have to place a high value on their languages.
“As far as I am concerned our indigenous people must never ever give up their language or feel ashamed about it,” she said.
“Teaching English for all our teachers is difficult enough as it is a second language. Employing a well-trained indigenous Fijian teacher to teach English to indigenous pupils has certain benefits in terms of clarifying concepts and meanings. A teacher with Fiji Hindi as a first language can similarly use the mother tongue to assist in the process of teaching English.”
“I am sure that this is what Principal Usa was conveying to the Minister,” said Ro Teimumu. “There was no need for him to go off his handle on this extremely sensitive topic. Mr Reddy, she said, had a habit of trying to emulate his leader, Frank Bainimarama, who has never stopped barking.
Ro Teimumu Kepa