Minister for Education, Rosy Akbar has slammed Agni Deo Singh for misleading Fijians and saying that the Education Budget was reduced from $800 million to $467.7 million – this is a blatant lie.

The correct Education Budget is $714 million.

“The 2020-2021 Fijian National Budget figures are public-facing and at this point common knowledge. It is appalling that Mr Singh insults the intelligence of Fijians by trying to blatantly mislead them.”

“What’s even more concerning is the lack of fact-checking done by the Fiji Times before publishing this fake news on their front page. A simple check by any of their editors would show that the information was false.”

The Ministry of Education Heritage and Arts reiterates that providing a nutritious lunch is a parental responsibility.

“The Ministry is not going to dictate what food parents wish to give their child,” Minister Akbar said.

“There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration when providing food such as allergies, dietary preferences, religious beliefs which do not allow eating of certain foods, students from different backgrounds in religious schools, food safety and storage, transportation, OHS and cooking resources.”

“These are choices we leave to parents and assist them through many incentives, like free education, water and electricity subsidies and other grants and benefits.”

The Fijian Government already provides relief assistance to families affected by COVID-19 in the form of $220 every fortnight as well as $20 million set aside for unemployment benefits.

“Headteachers have been briefed and must act accordingly to look after the interests of children in their care, but parents must also ensure they fulfil their parental responsibilities,” the Education Minister said.

“Strangely, FTU was silent when opposition politicians demanded civil servant pay cuts and did not make a single statement. The FijiFirst Government retained full pay for all civil servants including our teachers, and retained the full benefits of free education for our children.”

Agni Deo Singh and FTU need to decide if they are here to serve the teachers as they claim or their own political and financial aspirations.

“We request parents to keep a watch on their children and ensure that they focus on education and get the best possible future for our young ones.”

Minister Akbar thanked the many religious groups, youth groups, NGOs and other entities and individuals who have taken action to provide help to Fijians during this pandemic.

“We have many good samaritans in Fiji who have spent their time assisting our people and they are bright lights during these dark times. We must follow their example.”

The Minister urged parents to inspire their children to get the best education and to be good Fijian citizens.

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