Unity for education

Villagers of Vatulele and Nabuna were part of a recent clean-up of the Vunivasa District School compound. Picture: JONA KONATACI

Villagers of Vatulele and Nabuna were part of a recent clean-up of the Vunivasa District School compound. Picture: JONA KONATACI

LONG ago before the arrival of Christianity, the indigenous Fijians survived through communal living.

In a community, everyone looked after each other’s welfare and safety.

Evidently since the turn of the 21st century and the evolution of time, new ideas have crept in and blanketed what was once a way of life.

Men did their own thing, women walked their own way, a young boy could do anything he felt was right, and a young girl could be worried about make-up rather than what her peers in decades gone would be concerned about.

This change, while heavily felt in the urban centres, is slowly taking over the lives of villagers and islanders in the rural and maritime areas. And just like everywhere else, the island of Koro is feeling the impacts of these changes

In the early 1960s during the construction of the Nabuna Methodist Church, the chief of Vatulele (neighbouring village), summoned his people to help out with the construction.

Eighty-year-old Taito Rauluni recalled the evening when Vatulele villagers arrived and they started mixing concrete from 8pm until 3pm the following day when the floor of the massive church was completed.

“Everyone did everything in unison,” said Mr Rauluni.

Times change, people change and a new generation of ideas adopted saw everyone trying to do things solo.

It was not until six years ago when chiefs of Vatulele and Nabuna came up with the idea of Siga kei Vunivasa (Day for Vunivasa). Children of Vatulele and Nabuna village attend Vunivasa District School.

School manager Saiasi Waqabiu said the Siga kei Vunivasa was set aside by the chiefs and members of the two yavusa (tribes) for work around the school compound.

“These include cutting the grass, weeding, clearing and cleaning the compound and other maintenance work needed by the school,” he said.

“This was an idea brought forth by our chiefs and village elders. Before the people of Nabuna would just clean their side of the school, the Vatulele men cleaned their side. Then we tried for the two villages to take turns but we found that it was not working well. Everything done was always incomplete.

“Then we came up with a new concept, where we will do things together. The men will start with cutting and weeding and clearing, and then at lunch time our women will arrive and we will all have lunch together with our children before the ladies help with the cleaning up after lunch.

“And over the years we have seen this has worked.”

From a distance, the school is one of the best maintained school on the island.

The school manager continued that their coming together had also strengthened their blood and traditional ties.

“We are all related and at one time we were not visiting each other, with this new initiative we are now visiting each, everyone looking after one another and it has strengthened our relationships,” he said.

The Siga kei Vunivasa is held every Thursday on the first week of every month.

“This is our way of supporting our children’s education.

“Everyone in the village is often told, if you know you can farm, farm as much as you can and do all you can but on the Siga kei Vunivasa you have to avail yourself.

“To our children we often encourage them, you see us sweating out here under the scorching heat, so enthusiastically pursue education and be successful.

“For us this is the price of not being attentive when we were in school.”

When American composer and musical educator Peter Schickele wrote his song No Man Is An Island, he simply meant, from a certain perspective, that in this world we live in, there will be a time when everyone will need someone.

No man is an island,

No man stands alone,

Each man’s joy is joy to me,

Each man’s grief is my own.

We need one another,

So I will defend,

Each man as my brother,

Each man as my friend.

I saw the people gather,

I heard the music start,

The song that they were

singing,

Is ringing in my heart.

No man is an island,

Way out in the blue,

We all look to the one above,

For our strength to renew.

When I help my brother,

Then I know that I,

Plant the seed of friendship,

That will never die.