A recent survey in the Labasa area revealed widespread hardship and discontent among the people with children forced to walk several kilometres to attend school.
While they have given several reasons for their plight, the foremost among them are:
• Rising poverty levels on account of a severely contracting economy in the Northern region
• Sharp increases in price of almost all goods and services mainly the consumable items in daily use in households – most people are now unable to buy such items as canned fish and tinned meat (fresh meat is far too expensive)
• The recent increase in bus fares has been described as outrageous, imposing a harsh financial burden on the rural community and parents of school children. Many children now walk long distances to school or cover a part of the distance on foot to pay less in bus fares.
The mother of three school going kids complained, “My children go to school a few kilometres from home. The daily return bus fare for the three of them now comes to $40 per week – we just cant afford that any more. Before the increase we used to $28 per week.” So the children now walk a part of the way.
It is cruel for a child just 6 years old to have to walk such distances on dusty roads in the cold of the morning – let alone we when it rains!” she said.
Some 150 households in villages and settlements were involved in the survey which was carried out in different parts of Vanua Levu over a fortnight.