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A celebration of the past

Repeka Nasiko
Thursday, April 26, 2012

THE class of the 1980s at St Thomas Primary School had no prize giving ceremonies, no head boys or head girls, no prefects, and no distinct system to set any of its students apart.

And this is one of the things that former student, Doctor Lusi Boseiwaqa liked about her former school.

"We didn't have any prefects or end of the year prize giving ceremonies. All we had was a concert at the end of the year," said Dr Lusi.

This, she says, was good because it did not set any of the bright students apart from the weak ones.

"Everything was mixed and the interaction between the different races was always very good," said Dr Lusi.

She said teachers like Master Mika and Mrs Kava would encourage students to assist each other in their school work.

"The teachers would encourage the bright students to work with the weak ones and we always made sure that everyone was performing well in school," she said.

Originally from Rukua Village in Beqa, Dr Lusi remembers fondly her years spent within the four walls of her beloved school.

Enrolled in the class from 1981 to 1986, Dr Lusi said she had a lot of fun while attending the school that began in March 1925.

Now the head of the pathologist department at Lautoka Hospital, Dr Lusi said she enjoyed her five-year experience at St Thomas Primary.

"I always looked forward to the end of the year concerts," she admits with a laugh.

"It was something that I truly enjoyed because it was different just like my experiences during classes with my European, Chinese and Indian classmates.

"It was always a welcome change for me because outside of school I was used to the standard Fijian community and when I went to school I'd interact with all these different people of different races."

Asked whether there were any racial barriers that existed between the students, Dr Lusi answers with a resound "No".

"There was nothing like that. The only racial based thing that we did was the vernacular classes that the Fijian and Indian students would attend," she said.

With their class reunion set to take place next month, the former Adi Cakobau Secondary student says she is looking forward to seeing her former classmates.

"I want to see how everybody is now and to just catch with everyone," added Dr Lusi.

She's not the only former student with fond memories of the school. In the 1975 Golden Jubilee souvenir program, the late lawyer Surendra Prasad reminisced about his days at the school which was divided into three distinct sections.

"The Indian and the Fijian section was housed in the two storeyed wooden building (directly behind the parish hall) and was under the charge of Sister Jerome รน with the late Mr Andrew Moti and Mr Hari Charan as her assistants," he said.

"The part-Europeans were schooled in the building adjacent to the present parish hall and was in the charge of Sister Fabian while the European section was in the two-storey wooden building near the Sisters' convent and was generally known as the Convent School.

"The town of Lautoka in the 1940s was a horse ad buggy town but the presence of large number of servicemen made it a bustling little place. The sugarcane fields occupied almost the whole area between Vitogo Parade tramline, Mana Street, Valetia Street and Drasa Avenue.

"Lautoka in the early 40s was quite a multiracial town and there were large numbers of prominent Indian, European and Chinese citizens, who played a leading role in affairs of Lautoka." Among the Indian community, he noted was the late Mohammed Tawahir Khan known as M.T Khan who was a Captain in the armed forces and was largely instrumental in organising the Indian Labour Battalion in the war years

"Mr B.D Lakshman, the noted politician and printer who lived just near the school in Tukani Street, Mr S.B Patel, the noted barrister and solicitor was a familiar figure often seen lazing on swings at his wooden cottage also in Tukani Street opposite the parish hall or in his riding breeches on horseback."

Other prominent Fijian citizens of Indian descent of the town were the Lekhu Singh Brothers, late Mr Sahabuddin, late Mr Sarju Prasad, late Mr Ram Bodh Sharma, Mr Meghji, Mr J. Chovan, Mr Gokul Bhagwan, Mr L. Vagh, Mr Pragji, Mr S.J Lochan, Mr B.R. Subarwal and Mr Balkaran Sharma.

"Among the prominent Chinese residents were Mr Ah Yong whose cafe at the corner of Vidilo and Naviti streets was a popular rendezvous for the pupils of St Thomas; Mr Sue Cumpoy who apart from being a well-known store-keeper was also a pigeon keeper; Mr Lum Hop, Mr Wong Ten and Mr Lew Gor, the cabinetmaker. Among the part-European community were the old families of Beddoes, the Whippys, the Maulls, the Johns, the Thaggards, the Rounds, Pickerings and numerous others."

Former student Dennis Rounds said the May 4-7 gathering in Lautoka would provide the opportunity for old friends to renew friendship and reminisce about the good old days.

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