Special school leads the way in financial education innovation

July 4, 2018

Wood work class – Senior students working on income earning carpentry projects

Students need to take their classroom skills and knowledge into the real world for financial education (FinED) to be effective. That’s exactly what the impressive Sigatoka Special School is doing through leading the way on innovative projects that help the students put money management into practice.

Recently the UN’s Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) visited the school to learn more about how FinED Fiji is being implemented. PFIP witnessed classes buzzing with interactive lessons, filled with colourful diagrams, games and fun role plays based around concepts including spending money wisely, setting priorities and budgeting.

After learning about financial concepts in the classroom, the school has started innovative new ways for the lessons to be used in real life scenarios, with income generating projects currently underway. Each project earns its’ own income to ensure it is sustainable and self-funding, and through these the students learn how to manage money as a group.

The innovative projects include a catering service with all food prepared in the school Home Economics kitchen, providing fresh sandwiches, salads, fruit, custard pies – and many other options, to local events. With the income generated from the catering, the students purchase aprons, gloves, hairnets, equipment and ingredients, items that allow the program to continue.

In addition to the catering service, the students also explore their creativity through making art and craft items including tote bags, earrings and tablecloths, as well as tie dying on fabrics and screen printing on clothes. These popular and attractive pieces are worked on and collected throughout the year to sell at events like the school’s annual open day.

There’s also carpentry services that are offered out to the community. The pieces are built by students who have completed accredited carpentry and joinery skills training through Fiji National University. Accredited training was conducted on the school grounds by a guest facilitator from the University. Items are sold to the community, and like with the other projects, the money earnt from selling items goes back into the projects like purchasing wood, handles, tools and other materials.

After earning income from the projects, the students need to prioritise how much is reinvested into the projects and how much is saved for future initiatives. Senior students also go to the stores directly to purchase the inputs independently, where they build familiarity with money, its value and with documentation related to money through handling cash and collecting receipts.

Soon, they are planning to open a school bank account to manage project funds together, from this they will learn banking skills including making deposits at a branch, saving, and record keeping on statements. The school is also in conversation with a local bank about assisting students to open their own individual bank accounts – with the consent and support from their parents.

And one step further, school principal Ms. Asenaca Sukanatabua has reached out to neighbouring hotels to arrange work placements in formal employment for senior students over the age of 18, which includes 3 – 6 months of work experience. The opportunities are managed with assistance of Ms. Sukanatabua where ongoing support is provided relating to financial education concepts such as budgeting, savings, spending and managing income. From the work, the students earn their own income, which is deposited into their own bank account enabling them to manage financial planning independently. Currently the school has senior students working in porter and housekeeping roles, and with their income, are economically active members of their families and communities.  

The flow on effects of the financial education lessons are resulting in multiple benefits, all starting with the students gaining a sense of independence and confidence. And the opportunity to support their families is another major benefit from that confidence gained.

Sigatoka Special School is also changing community mindsets for the better, showing that students living with a disability can build knowledge and skills in money management, which can lead to independent work. The application of financial education is helping the students to believe in their own capabilities equipping them for the future – futures full of opportunities.