Last year, the 3000 secondhand library books donated by John Paul College found new homes in four schools: Nadroga Sangam School, Naidiri Bay Khalsa School, Nabukelevuira Primary School, and Tuva Primary School. Included in this shipment were eight secondhand laptops – thanks to QUT. We met the cost of freight from Brisbane to Lautoka. The four schools jointly paid the clearance costs. This exercise was a truly collaborative effort between John Paul College, The SEE Project, QUT and the Fijian Schools. Of course, all this would not have happened if Christa Miyoni, one of the teachers at John Paul College and a dedicated member of the SEE Project did not take the lead. Thank you once again, Christa.
The Head Teacher of Nadroga School, Manoj Ram, headed the operation and picked the books and laptops from Lautoka wharf. Then, together with Dorthi Reddy, a senior teacher on his staff, they sorted the donated items for each school. Manoj even took the leadership to get the books across to Nabukelevuira Primary School on the island of Kadavu. Manoj Ram, Dorthi Reddy and other headteachers Muniappa Reddy (Naidiri Bay Khalsa School), Adam Taylor (Nabukelevuira Primary School) and Abinhesh Maniu Ram(Tuva Primary School) should be commended for working as a team and getting things done. Through their efforts, they were able to get the resources to students within a reasonable time.
Nabukelevuira Primary School is on the Island of Kadavu, which is to the south of the main island of Viti Levu. The school has six teachers. In the primary school, there are five teachers and 105 students. There is one teacher for the students in kindergarten. The majority of the students come from the Nabukelevuira Village, and the rest come from a nearby village. Students from the nearby village board in school. The community built the school with government assistance in 1970. It has six classrooms, an office, a library, a dining hall and a dormitory for the hostel students. Until of donation of a laptop, the school only had two desktops for teacher use. The school relies on solar power for its energy needs.
Recently, the school committee managed to build a new computer and library block for their students with government assistance. According to Adam Taylor, the Head Teacher, “Our Library doesn’t have many quality books, but we make do with what we have. I’m trying to get these students to develop good reading habits, which I felt was an area needing a lot of improvement when I first got here. I’m fortunate to have a great team of teachers that share the same vision. Last year we made some improvements in our Library, and we have had consistent library classes ever since. I have noticed that the students are starting to enjoy reading.”
Cyclones are a regular event in this part of the world. In addition to finding resources for the new specialist classrooms, a lack of telecommunication facilities challenged Adam. A recent damage cyclone had destroyed the local mobile phone tower. Consequently, it took hours for Adam to travel to Vunisea, the main town centre on the island, to communicate with the world. Despite this limitation, Manoj and other headteachers on the mainland collaborated with Adam to get the donated books and a laptop to his school. According to Adam, “Upon receiving the books, the students were delighted. At last, they had got a chance to read something different”.
Ramila and I first met Adam and his late wife Renae nearly ten years ago when we went to help at Naidovi Primary School. Adam recalled the visit pointing out that, “Serving in Rural schools can be challenging, but I take great satisfaction in teaching these students. Trying to educate them to be able to cope with the outside world is a satisfying challenge. I have treasured the “Make a difference” vision you shared with Renee and I many years ago.”
It was very pleasing to see that the books and laptops had reached the schools and students were using them. I want to finish off by bringing Sydney Pointier into this conversation – he is undoubtedly one of the greatest actors of all time. But did you know that he was illiterate until his late teens? He had come from the Bahamas, and the only way he could make a living was by working as a dishwasher in New York. At the time, Hollywood also needed black actors, but Sydney Pointier could not read or write. One of his workmates taught him how to read and write and look at the doors that this opportunity opened for him. Give children a chance to read – you never know what doors it can open for them! All human beings need a chance, and this what the SEE Project is about. Well done everyone for your efforts.