UPDATED: 10:46am – It is not constitutionally possible to accede to the request from the Methodist Church in Fiji for all principals and head teachers in schools run by the church to be members of the Methodist Church.
The same applies to any religious organisation that has established and manages primary or secondary schools throughout Fiji.
This has been confirmed in a statement by Acting Education Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama.
Bainimarama says it is in the best interest of our students, to have the most qualified head of school in place to ensure the delivery of the most effective learning environment.
He adds that it is also in the best interests of teachers and of the educational institution to appoint the most qualified head of school available.
The Fijian Constitution section 22(4) states that every religious community or denomination and every cultural or social community has the right to establish, maintain and manage education institutions, however, no such community has the right to dictate who should be appointed as a principal, head teacher or teacher.
The teachers, head teachers and principals are all civil servants with salaries financed by every Fijian taxpayer.
The Prime Minister says that Government will not allow for discrimination on the grounds of religious adherence as it is contrary to our supreme law, the Fijian Constitution.
He stresses that the appointments and promotions of all civil servants, including teachers, will continue to be made following an open, transparent and competitive selection process based on their qualifications and experience.
He says the Government deeply appreciates the commitment from its religious communities and denominations that establish and maintain education institutions in Fiji.
Bainimarama states that the Fijian Government is mandated by the Constitution to realise the right of every Fijian to free early childhood, primary and secondary education.
He says these initiatives and policies have, together, led to a remarkable increase in access to high‑quality education in Fiji.
The Methodist Church in Fiji claims that there has been no prior consultation done in regards to leadership roles in the Methodist Church run schools, and non Methodists are being appointed as headteachers and principals in these schools.
They had asked the Ministry of Education for all their school heads to be Methodists.