153 years on: Fiji launches Link 1

From left, senior education officer Doug McKeating, Minister for Education Jone Naisara, The Fiji Times education co-ordinator, Mike Jarema, and principal education officer R.L.Pillay. Picture: FT FILE

A photograph of four men in celebratory mood graced one of the pages of The Fiji Times on July 14, 1977.

They were pictured with the Ministry of Education’s first of 42,000 Link 1 school English textbooks, as it came off the press. Back in 1977, the English textbook was described as an “education book with a difference”.

The entire book was handled editorially and in all other aspects, in Fiji. The Minister for Education at the time, Jone Naisara, mentioned the following: “The fact that all of this has taken place in Fiji is both a credit and a benefit to the country.

“Firstly, that we are fulfilling our own educational needs, with our own materials and capabilities, which is something we have always striven for.”

“Secondly, the community through firms such as The Fiji Times is working as a partner towards this goal by producing much needed textbooks while providing employment here in Fiji.

The Fiji Times’ education co-ordinator, Mike Jarema, said Link 1 reflected a commitment by the company to fulfill an area that was serviced at much high costs to pupils by overseas publishers.

“All the people involved in this project – and it is a big one now, I know that Fiji can serve itself in one of its most vital areas, the education now available from Fiji,” Mr Jarema said.

“And the possibility arises that other South Pacific countries can benefit from the low-cost publications now available from Fiji.

“All in all, the Link I series involved 20,000 325-page books; 20,000 128- page books and 2000 352-page teachers’ guide.”

The books represent a dream come true for Mr R.L.Pillay, principal education officer of the Educational Resources Centre, who worked tirelessly to prove that Fiji could handle the publishing project.

He put up the books for tender and The Fiji Times submitted the most attractive tender.

The base material in the books was taken into hand by Doug McKeating, the man who was with the project all the way and nursed it through each step with Francis Mangubhai and their team from the Curriculum Development Unit in Nasese.

The Link 1 series represented seven years of work starting with its conceptualisation by the UNDP/UNESCO curriculum development team which began its work in 1970 to arrive at a curriculum suitable for the Pacific region seven years later.

The books were available for schools from The Fiji Times and distribution centres from July 18, 1977. The base prices in 1977 were: Rapid Reading 73 cents; Pupil’s Book $1.82 and $3.85 for the Teacher’s Book.

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