31 Jul 2008

Cult bans kids from school

The Fiji Times - July 31, 2008

SOCIAL welfare officers are investigating a settlement which has stopped children from attending school because of its cult beliefs.

Parents of the children who live at Loqa settlement in the foothills of the Nakauvadra mountains in Ra have refused to send their children to school despite pleas by senior civil servants.

Ra social welfare officer Una Waqa said they had been keeping tabs on the settlement and were aware that some children born there were not registered.

Children between the ages of four and 13, she said, stayed home to help their parents.

District Officer Ra Asaeli Cava said those who lived at the settlement were from Vatukacevaceva Village and were involved in a cult known as Lotu Kadrala.

Vatukacevaceva Primary School headteacher Taubale Mocevakaca said he was accompanied by other teachers and the village headmen to the settlement three times to try to talk to the elders but without success.

He said what concerned them was that children were being denied an education.

"Their religion does not believe that the children should go to school," said Mr Mocevakaca.

"It is a basic right for any child to be allowed education. I have tried three times, even with the village headman, to go there and convince them to send the children to school.

"Some of the practices they follow are questionable. When we met them there, the elders actually asked us where in the Bible does it say that children should go to school."

Mr Mocevakaca has compiled a case file on the settlement and handed it to the Ministry of Education.

Interim Education Minister Filipe Bole said he was aware the cult settlement "had been around for some time".

He said he had once led a team to try to convince the elders at the settlement to ensure that the children were sent to school.

"That settlement has been there for a long time and we can only appeal to them to send their children to school. Other than that, there is nothing we can do."

Fijian Teachers Association president Tevita Koroi said some communities in Fiji preferred not to send their children to school but teach them subsistence farming and business.

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