In the grade 9 social science syllabus, there is a unit in the Fijian curriculum which focuses on the history of Fiji. It covers the period from “Early Settlers and the Society of the Early Fijians” through to “Offer of Cessation”. This is an important part of Fiji’s history as it played an important role in the evolution of this country. Such a unit enables students to have a meaningful conversation not only for assessment purposes but also for life. I like this quote by Pearl Buck – “If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.”
As part of an outreach project supported by the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan, students from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), designed, developed and implemented a classroom activity that explored some of the historical players and facts from the 1800’s that eventually led to the cessation of Fiji to Great Britain. The team was led by Olivia Gordon, Gayle D Souza, Jarred Wilis, and supported by Ramila Chandra Zarina Shahban and Chloe Fas. The team was grateful to the Principal Segran Pillay and the Head of Social Science Sanil – Prasad for their support of this activity.
For year 9 students at Balata High School, the culminating activity was the production of a news/current affairs type video clip that highlighted the events from that era. Prior to QUT students travel to Fiji, they developed an activity plan and a sample video of what they expected the students at Balata to produce. In the sample video, they interviewed Epeneri Korovakaturaga – a student from Fiji who has recently graduated with a degree in Design from QUT. This is an interesting video where he shares some of this knowledge on the history of Fiji:
I commend the work of the QUT team. For Olivia, Gayle, and Jarred as leaders of this activity, they had no content knowledge on the history of Fiji. Yet they were able to put together and deliver an excellent activity, which can be adopted in a variety of activities in Fijian classrooms. Balata students highly valued what they had learnt – this was evident not only in their final video clips, but also in the way they talked about it to the participants at the school’s open day. Great work everyone!
Link to group website: https://kggroup262015.wordpress.com/
Here are the reflections of the QUT students:
Olivia Gordon’s reflections
This trip to Fiji has been without a doubt the greatest experience I have ever encountered in my life. Words cannot express how invaluable of an experience this trip has been in regards to not only developing my teacher identity I guess you could call it but also developing an admiration for the Fijian culture and developing lifelong friendships with those that we went on the trip with. One thing I loved about this trip was that we as students we were really able to be immersed into the cultural side of Fiji opposed to the tourist side which I believe majority of people who travel to Fiji tend to do. I really have a new found respect and admiration for the Fijian culture and it has really opened my eyes to their welcoming nature. It was just amazing to recognise that those who live with so little were the happiest and kindest people I have ever met.
The teaching aspect of this trip was absolutely amazing and it has made me really want to travel back to Fiji and teach in different schools. The staff and the students at Balata High were so kind and so welcoming and the students who we had the opportunity to teach were all amazing in their own ways. Although this teaching experience was all about us as teachers teaching the students, I really believe that I learnt more from them. I could go on writing for hours but overall this has been an amazing experience, I have loved every second of it and would like to thank you Vinesh for giving me this invaluable opportunity that I will never forgot and am so grateful to have experienced.
Gayle D’Souza’s Reflections
This Fiji trip has definitely been the most eye-opening and amazing trip of my life. Initially meeting all the people in the group was awesome, but being able to share this experience and help each other whilst teaching at Balata High School has made this trip even more amazing. Firstly meeting all the students and teachers at Balata and being welcomed so much just felt so warm and I started to feel very comfortable in that environment. Working with my fellow QUT students and overcoming technology and lesson challenges within the week built our team work skills immensely and teaching the students was just so much fun. I don’t even have words to describe how much fun I had and how many skills I developed. I feel like the students taught me just as much as I taught them and I will never be more grateful to have experienced something like this. It was incredibly sad saying goodbye to Balata on the last day of school. Having the students hug us and saying they would miss us as well as some of the teachers being so genuine and tearing up truly touched me.