Rock, clan and the school
Uluinavatu as seen from the Kings Rd. The rock is between Narewa and Vitawa villages in Rakiraki. Picture: AVINESH GOPAL
THERE is a rock that is visible from the Kings Rd as you head to Rakiraki.
Many would probably shrug it off as just another handiwork of mother nature. But this is no ordinary rock. In fact it juts out almost majestically as a rocky mountain. It seems there are connections to the existence of human beings many centuries ago, probably about 1000 BC or so.
The rock is also said to have what looks like giant human faces on different sides.
From this rock comes the name of a clan in Rakiraki and a school that caters for children from the four villages, the members of which make up the clan.
The rock is believed to have been the abode of the villagers’ ancestors and a little bit of information about it can be found on the internet.
As part of my journey to the district which brims with history, I stopped over at the Navatu Primary School, which is past Rakiraki Town towards Tavua. The reason for the stopover was to meet my good friend, Varayame Tavualevu, who is the chairman of Vunitogoloa Village in Rakiraki. He was cutting grass at the school.
It was to find out something else from him but I then became inquisitive with the school’s name and was lucky to meet the school committee secretary, Inia Waqa.
Mr Waqa, 57, of Vitawa Village, explained where the school name came from and how it came to be located where it is now, near the foot of the hills at Navatu.
“The name of the school comes under the name of our clan, which consists of Vitawa, Narewa, Vunitogoloa and Naivuvuni villages,” he said.
“Navatu, which is our clan name, itself means the rock and it comes from the rock Uluinavatu which is near Vitawa Village.
“According to archeologists, people were living on the Uluinavatu long before the birth of Jesus Christ. Human bones were found there.
“From my search on the internet, I found out that pottery found at the Uluinavatu dates back to 1000BC, which is quite a long time ago.”
Mr Waqa said it was believed the villagers’ ancestors lived on the rock at a time which people could never imagine.
He said from the stories passed down through the generations, he heard their forefathers who lived on the rock in the 1800s were strong people.
“They were not defeated in any war and they lived on the rock during Udreudre’s time when cannibalism was rife in the area.
“When missionaries arrived in Fiji and started moving out to different places in the country, our ancestors who lived on the Uluinavatu received them and accepted Christianity.
“From what I heard, our ancestors who lived on the rock also took the missionaries to Udreudre.”
Mr Waqa said the clan name Navatu had been there since the time of the villagers’ forefathers, linking it to the rock Uluinavatu. He said following the introduction of education by the missionaries, the first school started in Narewa and was later moved to Vunitogoloa.
“But the school was later destroyed by a hurricane and it was then moved to where it is now at Navatu and named after our clan. The land on which the school is located was of yavusa Navatu and mataqali Dawadigo from Naivuvuni Village.
“The school serves children from the four villages which make up the Navatu clan and we have facilities for Year 1 to Year 8.”
Mr Waqa said the school used to have a roll of more than 150 students but it dropped to a little more than 80 last year.
He said more than 80 students had been enrolled this year and enrolment was still open.
“The school roll has declined because people have been moving out from the area to urban centres in search of employment and for other things.
“And as such, children have been going with their parents and attending other schools.
“But we are still as strong as the rock and we will continue to ensure that children from the four villages and other nearby areas get primary education not far from their homes.
“The clan name itself means the rock, so we are strong. Just like the rock still stands, so will the school stand strong.”
Mr Waqa also said the school would start its firstever kindergarten in February as approval for it had been obtained from the Ministry of Education. He said the kindergarten would be of great value to the children who had been staying home and waiting to start school in Year 1.
“It is the first time that we are going to have a kindergarten in the school and we are looking for some donors right now.
“We just need assistance in getting playing stuff and things for other activities for the children who will attend the kindergarten,” said Mr Waqa.