Collaborating physical education and support to help children

The Wallis and Futuna team at the closing ceremony of the 2018 Western and Central Chow Games yesterday. Picture: SOPHIE RALULU

HENRY Elder Sr, one of the founding members of the then Fiji Primary Schools Amateur Athletics Association (FPSAAA) which is now the Fiji Primary Schools Athletics Association, is a firm believer in the importance of regularising physical education in Fijian schools.

“We should encourage it to continue because it is very important to the development of children,” Elder Sr said.

“Physical education is the basis of all sports and it teaches children the skills and the basics of sports.”

Elder, was a happy man during the weekend because of the 2018 FMF Chow Games at the ANZ Stadium in Suva.

He was part of it, as an executive, an official and an ardent fan. The games are close to his heart. He helped started it, way back then, he said probably in the 1970s.

“If memory serves me right,” he said through telephone yesterday while at work at the school he leads, The Learning Centre in Suva.

“I am very happy with the outcome of the games. Everything went well — from the organisation of the event, the officials and the athletes.”

He has a philosophy.

One that kept him going all these years, and one among others that he learned as a young man in his school days that he wants to part to Fiji’s future leaders.

“I am a firm believer in a ‘fit mind developing in a fit body.’ This is why physical education in schools is very important. Having a fit body can help you make acute decisions and good judgement in your mind.

“One thing that we were taught at Levuka Public School in our days by our Australian and New Zealand teachers was ‘Time is important’. We were taught that linkage lives a lifetime because you learn as you grow. We should use our time well. We learned that it is not your size, but it’s the size of your effort that determines your success and honest hard work is important.”

Elder said the FMF Chow Games — the nationals held every three years and the divisional games every two years, became successful because of the co-effort of stakeholders — the association, the athletes, the schools and teachers, government, sponsors, parents and members of the public.

“Positive collaboration of the teachers, the parents and the community helped in our success.”

Collaboration means the action of working with someone to produce something. Elders said in the early days of the games, everyone worked together for the success of their children. “Back then at Veiuto Primary School, we used to be very poor in athletics.

“We had people like Alifereti Cawanibuka and Tuisese, and we helped the teachers on how to conduct physical education. There were 23 women and just three males and over two years we had been practising.

“But when we had the next athletics competition, everyone was surprised that the school that they had always looked down upon beat everyone.

“Top schools used to be Nabua and Draiba and some others. The teachers came to me and said, ‘hey what did you people do” did you use something?

“I replied, ‘you people train for seven months, we had been training for two years’.

“That was basically what happened. “We were successful because everyone helped, including the parents.

“In my 12 years at Veiuto, positive collaboration was among the best things I learned as a teacher.

“People of all backgrounds helped. I remember I asked a mother of one of the students and she said ‘master, I am ashamed because I do not speak good English’. All I did was to encourage her by asking if she could teach a meke, or teach children how to weave mats. ”

And she realised that it is not about how fluent she spoke English, but her ability to help children use their talents to succeed in what they do.

““Today, I look back and I am thankful and appreciate the contribution of parents in events such as the Chow Games.”

Elder’s background

Elder Sr is from Natewa Bay, Vanua Levu.

“It was a hard life, but as linkage lives a lifetime, I am fortunate of what I came through. We, the small papalagis from Natewa Bay, those in Taveuni, Macuata and other areas, the likes of the Valentines and the Petersons, would sail to Levuka every January and stayed with our relatives for our education.

“I lived with an uncle who came to work in Levuka and we lived in a corrugated iron house as I studied at Levuka Public School.

“Life was hard, but our Australian and New Zealand teachers taught us a lot of things. One of our Australian women teachers told us one day ‘Be a beggar.’

We asked, ‘Madam why should we become beggars.’ She said ‘Be a beggar for knowledge and wisdom’.

“A lot of things we learned from school equipped us to become who we are today.”

He said the knowledge he learned back then and what he learned in physical education helped him and many others teach children how to compete
and be winners in sports, especially in the Chow Games.

Similar to his school days, the friendships students develop during the games will help shape their future — in sports and their lives.

Elder Sr was educated alongside some renowned Fijians such as former President and Bau chief Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and successful businesswoman
and politician, Dr Mere Samisoni.

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