National language debate in Fiji

National Language Debate In Fiji

National language debate in Fiji

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The national language debate in Fiji concerns the status of the country's three official languages - English, Fijian, and Hindustani (the name used in the constitution for Fiji Hindi). From colonial times, the sole official language was English, but the 1997 Constitution gave equal status, for the first time, to Fijian and Hindustani, alongside English.

Compulsory subject?

There is considerable debate as to whether Fijian, and possibly also Hindi, should be compulsory school subjects. In May and June 2005, a number of prominent Fiji Islanders called for the status of Fijian to be upgraded; the present Education Minister, Ro Teimumu Kepa endorsed calls for it to be made compulsory, as did Great Council of Chiefs Chairman Ratu Ovini Bokini. Similar calls came from Misiwini Qereqeretabua, the Director of the Institute of Fijian Language and Culture, and from Apolonia Tamata, a linguistics lecturer at Suva's University of the South Pacific, who both said that recognition of the Fijian language is essential to the nation's basic identity, as a unifying factor in Fiji's multicultural society.

Fiji Labour Party (FLP) leader Mahendra Chaudhry also endorsed the call for Fijian to be made a national language and a compulsory school subject, provided that the same status be give to Hindi - a position echoed by Krishna Vilas of the National Reconciliation Committee.

Academic and former Education Minister Taufa Vakatale said that she supported making Hindi available in all schools,...
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