July 9, 2018
by Erica Lee
Last year, the Sigatoka Special School was awarded one of six inaugural awards for Financial Education Innovation. The school was a standout applicant with the judging panel describing it as both inspiring and a leader in Financial Education (FinEd) in Fiji.
Since 2013, every Fijian child in mainstream education schools engages with FinEd lessons from years 1 to year 12. This is taught within existing subjects of Mathematics, English, Social Studies, Commercial Students, Accounting and Economics. Schools for children with disabilities in Fiji, however, have found it challenging to implement the curriculum for their students. Sigatoka Special School was undeterred by these challenges and began teaching FinEd last year thanks to Head Teacher Asenaca Sukanatabua.
Her goal to provide her students with a future where they can independently look after themselves once leaving school shines through in many of the activities that she has implemented at the school. Last year she underwent FinEd Teacher Training and was determined to implement the lessons in her school.
Ms. Sukanatabua who has given 28 years of her life to the school, firmly believes that with guidance and proper nurturing, her students can competently manage money.
“When we first introduced FinEd lessons for our intermediate and senior students last year, I thought about how best we could take these theoretical learnings to the next level. We wanted to ensure that they grasped the lessons through real-life scenarios,” she said.
Intermediary students between the ages of 10 – 13 years old, began learning simple lessons through role play where they are asked to make purchases in a store with play money. Through these fun exercises, the students are taught themes like needs and wants, saving and spending. This also teaches students the importance of budgeting their money and prioritizing their spending.
“Many of our students come from struggling rural families who aren’t always able to provide their children with new uniforms or sandals each year. FinEd is teaching our students the value of money and how best to utilize their spending money,” said Ms. Sukanatabua.
Students are given money boxes at the start of each year and taught to set savings goals. The class teacher helps the students by recording their saving achievements and provides guidance throughout the year to encourage the student to stay on track. When a child has saved enough money, a teacher accompanies him/her to purchase the item at a store in town.
Intermediate Class Teacher, Ms. Keshni Vikash said the programme has been successful and has changed the way her students interact with money. She said Ratu Sikeli Tuitogalevu was the first student in the school to achieve his saving goal last year and was able to buy himself a new school uniform.
Two other students were also able to save enough money to buy a wrist watch and shoes for school. Their success in the programme has been very encouraging for other students and is also having a positive effect on their parents.
“Parents of my students have said that they are surprised that their children have been able to save and many are inspired to save money themselves,” Ms. Vikash added.
Taking these lessons to the next level, Head Teacher Ms. Sukanatabua converted two classrooms into practical rooms for her senior students to begin entrepreneurial lessons. These lessons complement FinEd learnings by using creative and innovative methods to generate income. Students take on project-based work during their home economics and woodwork classes.
Senior girls have started catering services offering cakes, sandwiches, salads and various other lunch menus for local events. The students are taught baking, cake decorating and presentation skills from pastry chefs from surrounding hotels who offer their days off to upskill the girls. The girls also sell items sewed during class like place mats, pot holders, tie-dyed table cloths and handicrafts like screen printing, earrings and other home decorations. This year, the girls have already catered for four local events and have been able to save $300.00 after expenses have been recovered e.g. restocking of baking supplies, gloves, plastic utensils.
The senior boys have been taught carpentry skills and have received accreditation from the Fiji National University. Four of the students are also attending further training in brick and tile laying at the Nasau Youth Training Centre. The boys use these skills to make various wooden items but their most successful selling product has been coffins. The senior boys have done small carpentry services around the community and have been instrumental in the maintenance works and upkeep of the school.
When asked why coffins were made by the students, Ms. Sukanatabua said coffins are very expensive and members of the community especially those in the village struggle to purchase a coffin. She added that constructing a coffin also uses many technical skills and the students love being able to help their community. The senior boys have saved $890.00 after selling five coffins at $260.00 each.
Through FinEd, the students are taught about the cost of making their wares, how to source the most cost-efficient supplies and how to price items to make a profit. During these lessons, teachers empower the students by taking them to town to purchase their own supplies under a strict budget. The students visit different stores to compare prices then use their own judgment to purchase the items. They are expected to return with the receipts and must provide an accounting of their expenditure.
Once a year, a market day is also advertised to the community. Students proudly put on display their items and help teachers to price them and assist with managing the money till.
Head Teacher Ms. Sukanatuabua says that she is currently working on opening bank accounts for the students to deposit the money they have made from their sales. She has also arranged apprenticeships for three of her students at two hotels. These students are earning money while on attachment and have started helping their families with living expenses.
“FinEd is having a big impact not only on the lives of our students but also changing the mindset of our community. Our students are capable of anything when they are given the right opportunities to excel and we can see the community recognizing this,” she said.
“I hope that our story inspires more schools to actively implement FinEd and apply for this year’s awards.”