Providing education for students with learning difficulties
Young people with learning difficulties, physical disability or socio-economic disadvantage tend to drop out of school early. The same is true in Fiji, a nation of approximately 300 islands in the South Pacific Ocean, where there has been a recent rise in the number of students who fail to complete a basic level of education.
In 2000 the Marist Brothers in Fiji opened a multicultural and co-educational school for post primary students with learning difficulties and special needs, the only one of its kind to be registered with the Ministry of Education. With a current enrolment of 118, the Marist Champagnat Institute (MCI) offers programs to young people who have struggled to fit into mainstream schooling. An initial two-year course focusses on learning how to learn, literacy, numeracy and building self-confidence. At its completion, students are encouraged to return to mainstream schools or undertake a further two years of vocational training in computing, catering, tailoring, agriculture, engineering, woodwork or childcare.
The Fijian government pays a per capita grant per student, however this figure is far below MCI’s operational costs and does not include funds for maintenance, capital works or the salaries of ancillary staff. The vocational students generate a small but steady income stream each year by selling the items they have produced, learning basic business management skills in the process.
You can make a difference to the lives of young Fijians by supporting their decision to re-engage with the educational process, thereby expanding their options for the future.