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No regrets at Nabau

Matilda Simmons
Tuesday, October 24, 2017

WHEN Ashna Shirivashni was transferred to Nabau District School in Ra in 2012, she didn't know the challenges that lay ahead.

"We had two problems; we had no water and electricity so it was either go to the river or have your shower by the roadside where the only school tap was located," Ashna said with a smile. And being a town girl it was tough.

"My husband was based at Nabau District School when I married him. We're both teachers, so I got transferred here to be with him. I remembered being so lost," she laughed.

"I used to sit on the veranda of our quarters and cry for my husband to take me back to town. But now when I think back to those days I just laugh. I don't want to go back now; I've adjusted to life here."

Life then started to improve for the teachers at the school. In 2014 through the partnership of AQEP (Access to Quality Education Program), the school management had a water tank put up and they managed to get a water pump. The school added a generator but the teachers still used kerosene lamps in their quarters.

"I used kerosene lamp for three years until 2015 when I bought my own solar light," said Ashna.

"Then recently my husband received a letter to get transfered to another school as he had spent seven years here. Under the Ministry of Education policy, seven years is the term you spend at a school before you can move. I told him 'you can go I'll stay'.

"But thankfully the policy has changed again. So we were happy about it," she said.

We met Ashna as she was teaching her Year 7 class in the interior of Ra last week. She and her 18 students have a tent which serves as a classroom.

Their school is among many that was destroyed by Category 5 Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston in February last year. As their school is being rebuilt, Ashna and her colleagues make the best with what they have.

This year is her sixth year of teaching at Nabau District and it hasn't dampenedd her enthusiasm.

"The school didn't have anything left after the cyclone. The teachers worked together and made the decision on how to deal with the situation.

"At one stage the teachers were cooking for the students in the early aftermath of the cyclone.The teachers were providing breakfast and lunch for the kids and in between we took turns to cook.

"And it so happened I was on duty to cook when the former minister of education, Mr Mahendra Reddy, stopped by at the school. I remembered saying 'man, of all days, today was day the minister had to come and visit," she said with a laugh.

"He asked the students where I was and when the students told him, Mr Reddy said: "OK, that's good, at least the teacher is helping you with food."

As someone who once dreamed of becoming a pharmacist but had to change because of financial issues, Ashna says she has never regretted being a teacher. This year, she is finishing her Masters in Education studying through the distance and flexible learning (DFL) mode.

"I had thought about leaving teaching, now I'm doubleminded. The best thing about teaching here is the children and because it is an i Taukei based school, I've gotten to understand the Ra dialect which I learnt from the students. It helps me understand them better."

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