As the high-risk weather season commences in the South West Pacific, reconstruction work at Fiji’s Lekutu Secondary School is progressing well with the first phase now complete.
CAPTION: Members from the ADF and Republic of Fiji Military Forces construction engineer team at the end of Phase 1 in Vanua Levu, Fiji. Story by Captain Jessica O’Reilly.
The school, on the island of Vanua Levu, was badly damaged by Tropical Cyclone Yasa last December. An ADF construction engineer team (CET) has been working alongside the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) to construct two classroom buildings to enable Fijian students to continue their schooling.
Contingent Commander Major Donald Robertson said despite the challenges presented by the remote location and COVID-19, new bonds had formed between the ADF and RFMF.
“We relied heavily on our RFMF counterparts to overcome language barriers and to ensure that, for example, contract terms and material-quality requirements were understood by all parties,” Major Robertson said.
“The timely procurement and supply of quality construction materials and hired equipment was made difficult due to the remoteness of the location, COVID-19, and the relatively small scale of the construction industry on Vanua Levu.
“This required a persistent yet patient approach commensurate with the conduct of business in Fiji.
“Additionally, most materials could be purchased locally, which helped the local economy.”
To reconstruct the two classroom buildings, nearly 5000 concrete blocks have been laid and almost 400 tonnes of concrete poured, in a joint venture spanning more than 9000 hours of work on site.
The final product will enable the Fijian Government to continue to deliver quality education to Fijian students, ensuring they have access to opportunities later in life.
Major Robertson said it was a privilege to see how well the ADF and RFMF had integrated.
“The observance and participation in local customs, culture and traditions is paramount to building strategic partnerships,” he said.
“This is how relationships are formed and maintained.”
The reconstruction of education infrastructure is part of the ADF’s enduring commitment to Fiji and builds on the longstanding history of cooperation and friendship between our two countries.
With Phase 1 of the reconstruction effort wrapping up, plans are underway for a second ADF contingent to return in 2022 to complete Phase 2 and hand over the new building to the local community.