14 May 2014. The 445 students of Serua’s Ratu Primary School have new disability-inclusive facilities after a $183,000 investment by the Australian Government’s Access to Quality Education Program (AQEP).
Upgrades include 10 renovated classrooms and a new disability accessible toilet. AQEP also funded the recruitment of two teachers’ aides and provided teacher training, Braille machines, white canes and sign language dictionaries. A new library, early childhood education centre and ablution blocks were part of further assistance, along with small grants for students in need.
Ratu Latianara is one of five AQEP disability inclusive demonstration schools where students with disabilities attend school alongside their peers without disabilities.
“It is fantastic to note, that since the disability inclusion approach was implemented here in 2013, the enrollment of children with disabilities has increased significantly from 9 to 20 in 2014,” Australian Deputy High Commissioner Karinda D’Aloisio told guests at the handover event.
“Children with disabilities are among the most disadvantaged in terms of access to education – therefore they must be actively included in development activities and projects.”
AQEP Team Leader Dr Priscilla Puamau joined Ms D’Aloisio in thanking teachers, school management and the community for embracing inclusive education practices, acknowledging the assistance of the Ministry of Education, Hilton Special School and Fiji School for the Blind.
Ministry of Education Deputy Secretary Apisalome Movono represented the Fiji Government at the event.
Working closely with the Ministry of Education, school authorities, management committees and education stakeholders, AQEP works to improve the ability of students from poor communities to enroll and stay in school.