Commentary  on "Tebara Bus interested in servicing Rotuma"

It’s sad to read but very appropriate and pertinent of Pasirio Kitione to post his commentary. For it’s about time that someone who is true to Rotuma’s callings highlights this important issue for readers.

Perhaps it’s needless of me to say that most Rotumans and in particular, the parents of  affected students needed to hear this and find the answers to the issue raised, and soon!

I couldn’t help but reminisce about the times when students used to ride the open green RDF truck driven by Mamao, and then later the three green RDF buses driven by Afereti, Varomue, Fereti and sometimes Epeli to and from school. These rides were all free for the students. All a student had to do was be punctual at any of the pickup points to catch the buses. And mind you, these services were provided free when Rotuma did not have the influx of remittances and Government grants that we have now.

Certainly the problem did not develop overnight! It all began when the District Officer relinquished control of Government grants and the Rotuma Development Fund (RDF). Things have spiralled out of control and deteriorated to such an extent that there are now no buses in operation and worse, students have to either pay fares or walk to school.

The irony of this is that the root cause of the problem is obvious. It’s merely the mismanagement of the RDF. There has to be transparency and accountability supported by ethics and competence that’s in line with the Government’s policy of transparency.

We now have many well educated and experienced Rotumans with vision and the capability to strategise, plan and implement the management of the RDF so that it will support the island’s micro developments. Without the proper implementation and usage of the RDF as originally intended, such developments will undoubtedly suffer and the most vulnerable, like our students, will be the losers. 

But we need dynamic Rotumans who are knowledgable and won’t compromise their standards to bring projects to fruition by showing accountability, competence and transparency.

Frankly our students cannot afford for us to pussyfoot on something that affects their education and that of our future leaders. Especially when major economies in the EU such as the UK, France, Italy, and even the US are struggling with massive unemployment; in a small economy such as ours, it’s going to be tough to find a job. Now more than ever greater importance must be placed on our children’s education. I believe that a time will come when our children will need a master’s degree to get a white collar job because of supply and demand in the job market.

Recently I have read that there’s hardly any business in Rotuma and therefore there is a need to expand the Tuvalu trade with the other Pacific countries. Thus there is also a need for the RDF to invest in cottage industries. I have mooted this in one of my letters to the Forum that there are many opportunities that will work in Rotuma. I will detail and expand on these opportunities and where to go to for financial assistance and advice.

But for now there should be more attention to the needs of our students and a focus on the unhindered delivery of good quality education to prepare them. Also, more prominence should be given to vocational training for IT, health, trades, seafaring, hospitality, tourism, sports, light and heavy duty drivers, cadet training, animal and crop husbandry, to give our children more opportunities to choose from and an edge over other students when they get to Suva.

We have to be proactive and ought to do whatever we can to assist our children; otherwise they will struggle and won’t do better than their parents. For isn’t it the norm to expect that each generation of people will improve on the lot of the last?

Therefore the buses and students’ fares should never be part of the equation.. There should be no hindrance for our children’s education unless we are prepared to compromise their future. When this happens, it will be a very sad day for Rotuma and we all will stand to lose more than we bargain for in the future.

As Rotumans, and especially parents of affected students, we should be united in our efforts to advocate good and unimpeded education for our students. Such issues should be discussed at the village and district levels uninhibited by local politics. Otherwise what will we tell our children and future leaders? That we foresaw the consequences but cowered under pressure and our own reticence; that they are missing out on their education when we have a receptive Government that puts a lot of emphasis on education and is willing to help. 

Henry Enasio