Montessori in Fiji
Little Tribe Montessori School - Lautoka, Fiji
“Bula” from Fiji! My name is Vive Caphie Cerewale. The children at Little Tribe Montessori School call me “Auntie Caphie.” I was born and raised in Fiji and have a passion for educating the children of my country. From 1994 to 1996 I earned an Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education at the University of the Nations in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. I was part of team that pioneered a Montessori kindergarten in Suva, the largest city in Fiji, in 1998. Later that year I traveled to Hong Kong where I taught in a Montessori kindergarten until 2001.
In 2006-’07 I helped found Path Makers (a ministry for children) and in 2008, I founded the Little Tribe Montessori School, which is non-profit school recognized by the government of Fiji. The name Little Tribe came from the book of Psalms 68:27 in the Bible, which describes how a “little tribe”, like the children in our school, can lead their people. We hope to train children to think and lead in a way that will benefit all of the 900,000 people of Fiji.
Description of the School
Little Tribe is located in Fiji’s third largest city, Lautoka. Lautoka is located in western Fiji on the island Viti Levu. Little Tribe is the first Montessori kindergarten in the city and third in the nation. The school is run in a 400 square foot (40 square meter) room in a three bedroom house. I, and my assistant teacher, work as volunteers and depend on our church for our monthly income.
Little Tribe has 13 children from diverse backgrounds: one Muslim girl, two Hindu boys, and ten Fijians. The monthly fee for each child is 50 Fijian dollars (about 30 US dollars) and we offer scholarships to several children whose families’ cannot afford the entire fee. In November 2008 we “graduated” our fist pre-school class of five boys and girls, all of whom are ready for first grade!
The Opportunities in Fiji
The traditional school system in Fiji is generally very structured and authoritative and does not encourage children to learn freely and explore. While there are other private schools, such as Muslim, Hindu, and International schools, the Montessori approach uniquely offers the opportunity to learn more freely and enjoy coming to school. Children at Little Tribe are encouraged to express themselves and are not treated as robots who wait around until they are told what to do. Parents of Little Tribe students have commented on the growth they see in their children, their increased self sufficiency at home, and that they look forward to going to school.
Some of Our Challenges
Location Permits: During our first year, we started with nine children and quickly added three more. We had to get approval from the government to add the new students at our current location. For next year, we are looking for a new location to handle more children. We hope to stay close to our current neighborhood since many families cannot afford daily bus fare and most do not have a car.
Teachers: Teachers, of course, are the critical requirement to produce well educated children and maintain high standards in the classroom. But, qualified Montessori teachers are very few in Fiji. I hope to find teachers who have some Montessori training so I am able to “teach teachers” as we grow the school.
Montessori Materials: Materials are very expensive for our limited budget in Fiji. In order to overcome this challenge, I improvised several creative approaches that do not require significant expense. To make alphabet felt boards, I used pieces of sandpaper from our construction and pasted them on boards, which were also left over. Bigger pieces of wood were collected and used for making cubbies, shelves and tables. I have also collected local seeds and shells from the beach to use for counting.
Vision for the Future
My desire is to grow the Little Tribe step by step, adding one grade each year over the next six years. This manageable growth will allow me to select and train new teachers and would not require significant financial resources. In the longer term, I would like to take Little Tribe to other cities in Fiji, and into the villages and outer islands of my country.
“Vinaka.” (Thank you.)
Last Updated (Thursday, 22 July 2010 09:04)