Fiji Time: 3:55 AM on Sunday 25 March

Fiji Times Logo

/ Front page / Features

Forming International School

Matilda Simmons
Sunday, March 11, 2018

GAETANE Austin breezed into the lounge of the Pure Fiji building in Vatuwaqa with her airy laugh and easy personality. The businesswoman still has a girlish charm about her. But as she approached, her brows furrowed into deep concern as she asked about the plight of the two aviators who went missing on Vanua Levu.

It was into the second day of search for the two pilots. The news of the missing aviators who were later found in the mountains of Delaikoro had captured headlines in the daily media and saddened many.

"Have there been any news yet? I keep thinking about them," Gaetane asked trying to choke back her tears.

"The poor parents, oh how sad to find out in such a way."

Despite her busy schedule and the bustle of workers around her, she kept talking about the two aviators.

Gaetane is the founder and director of Pure Fiji, a natural body and skin care products manufacturer that caters for the exclusive spa and salon industry. Its products are sought after by most high-end spas and resorts worldwide, as well as smaller health and beauty stores and they command a respectable chunk of the beauty and skin care market both locally and overseas. Not bad for a company that first started on a kitchen table back in 1996.

Born to parents who are businesspeople in their own right, Gaetane spent most of her childhood around the Pacific.

"I was all over the Pacific before I came to Fiji," she said. "I was born in Vanuatu, then went to Wallis and Futuna Island, Nuku'alofa in Tonga, Vavau, Apia, then Levuka and Suva!"

While she is known for her entreprenual work with Pure Fiji, what most don't know is the fact that she was also the founder of International School Suva. Last week the school community celebrated its 45th birthday with former scholars.

The school boasts many nationalities from all over the world with some of the top of the range educational access and it has a roll of 597 students.

"We have a school to be proud of it is not perfect, nothing in life ever is, but it provides a balanced curriculum to a variety of nationalities," said Gaetane.

"This in itself is a feat as the school has to establish a standard which is not particularly geared to any one country, but will enable any student from any country to return to their country of origin and be reintegrated in the education system; and to give our local students the advantage of a good education and the richness of being exposed to other cultures."

Gaetane described the hard work and criticism that came when she and several others decided to start International School Suva.

"You know to begin with, people were saying it might be just for expats, but it wasn't … we wanted people who were coming in for a short time to mix with local children instead of keeping their children in boarding schools."

As early as 1972, certain local families and companies employing expatriates expressed an interest in establishing a school where there would be particular emphasis on a high standard of English and a curriculum which was similar to that in schools in their country of origin.

"This was in no way a reflection on the academic standards of existing local schools, which was, and continues to be, very good but where for the majority of the students and more importantly the teachers. English at that particular time was a second language. We had no options but to take the risk and it was, believe me, a very substantial risk of starting a brand new school," she said smiling.

By mid 1973, the interested parties had formed an active committee which sought and obtained from the Education Department provisional approval to operate a school.

The new school opened its doors in Garrick House (Garrick House was an old colonial home which had been uninhabited for some time and was rather derelict).

According to Gaetane there were 40 pupils in two composite classes, covering classes 1-4. During 1974, the association exercised its option on the present site and built the single storey block at the primary school to house classes 1-6. When the building was completed parents went to the site on weekends to help with mundane preparations such as planting the grass for the lawn, putting in trees, and shrubs.

"My late husband, Dr Bryan Duncan donated some laboratory equipment," said Gaetane.

"In 1975 the roll had expanded to 180 pupils and at the end of the same year it was necessary to extend the buildings to accommodate an ever increasing waiting list and so the double storey block at the primary school was built. The roll then increased to a total 300 pupils in 1976 covering classes One to Six and forms One and Two. In 1978 a small Form Three was in operation in a house on the estate. Form Four was added in 1979, Form Five in 1980 and Form Six in 1981.

"To compound the work of starting a new school and the usual 'teething problems,' we also had to weather quite a bit of criticism about the school being elitist, and so on. A lot of these adverse comments were aired in the local press and we consequently became very defensive, though it was decided that in time the school would prove by its operation and policy that this was not so and it would all die down — which of course it did."

It has been a long journey from 1972 when the school started. Today Gaetane is proud of the legacy she has left behind.

"Our local children also provide the important element of continuity in the school, and the background stability which enables them to welcome the many new students who arrive and familiarise them with their new environment.

"From the above you may understand why, especially to those of us involved at the conception of the school, it became a very personal connection," she said.

Fiji Times Front Page Thumbnail

Kaila Front Page ThumbnailFiji Times & Kaila Frontpage PDF Downloads

Use the free Acrobat Reader to view.

Code Inward TTs Outward TTs
CAD 0.64290.6239
JPY 52.917249.9172
GBP 0.35110.3431
EUR 0.40370.3917
NZD 0.69480.6618
AUD 0.64820.6232
USD 0.49830.4813



Exchange Rate updated on 23th, March, 2018

Today's Most Read Stories

  1. Son mourns mum's death
  2. Former players back
  3. Teacher investigated for alleged defilement
  4. Roko supports mate
  5. Hospital not ready, claims man
  6. Fiji loses, Krishna to miss second match
  7. Call for mass shots
  8. Disease is deadlier than dengue — Akbar
  9. Issues affecting Fiji: Poll
  10. Disputes: 51 per cent feel State should get involved

Top Stories this Week

  1. Meningococcal disease outbreak Tuesday (20 Mar)
  2. Doctors speak out Sunday (18 Mar)
  3. No desk for this girl Monday (19 Mar)
  4. Where are our horses Sunday (18 Mar)
  5. 12 dead by disease Tuesday (20 Mar)
  6. Police appeal to livestock owners Monday (19 Mar)
  7. Teacher reports male student in washroom for girls Tuesday (20 Mar)
  8. Son mourns mum's death Saturday (24 Mar)
  9. SGS junior has fastest 100m time Wednesday (21 Mar)
  10. Set academic goals achieved Friday (23 Mar)