Principal with a vision

Wainimakutu Secondary School principal Waisele Tavatuilagi (fourth from right) with teachers and chief guest Fijian Teachers Union general secretary Paula Manumanunitoga at the school’s prize giving ceremony. Picture: SOPHIE RALULU

IN the midst of the rolling hills and tropical forest of Namosi highlands is a school that is hell bent on becoming a model school for rural Fiji.

Meet Waisele Tavatuilagi, the school principal of Wainimakutu Secondary School in Namosi who has a vision to bring the school to the forefront of education.

The school is located in the interior of Namosi close to the borders of Serua, Namosi and Naitasiri and is about two hours’ drive from Suva. There is no internet access and mobile phone reception is scarce but it hasn’t stopped the school from achieving high passes in school projects and external exams.

Last year their Year 12 pass rate was 67 percent and 78 percent for Year 13, a big improvement from yesteryears when percentage pass rate bordered in the lower 50 per cent.

We met the principal at Wainimakutu during their annual school prize giving day this week. What struck us was the amount of sponsored prizes the students received.

From the school dux receiving a computer, to funds for savings including Pure Fiji packs.

What was also unique was the recognition of parents at the event.

After the students and vocational students were awarded, special announcements were made for parents or the ‘guiders of education’ as Mr Tavatuilagi liked to call them.

They are people in the background who have been the pillar of support for his students; mothers walking long miles on sharp rocky stones that make up the gravel road to the school bearing pots of hot food for the children and fathers who bear root crops from farms.

It is to award their efforts of being there for their children.

It isn’t the only prize giving the school holds.

Mr Tavatuilagi says the school also holds a Term One prize giving day whereby their students have accounts opened with investment company Unit Trust of Fiji, and when students improve or top their individual classes they have their accounts topped up or have their shares increased.

It’s an incentive that has had students vying for the top spot.

“Most of the students’ parents here are subsistence farmers,” describe the principal.

“So we have to come up with incentives or initiatives that will help motivate not only the students but their parents as well, and we have seen a change in mindset in the past year.

“It’s a very hard life up here so my main aim is have parental engagement which is very important. Without vision, a nation falls, so we have to have a goal in place.”

It has been an interesting journey, he says.

When it comes to term three they extend their extra classes.

The normal period which increased from six to to 9 and then to 10 and 11.

“So that means all the female students come to the hostel because of the risk involved during night classes and the male students are day students.

The boys have afternoon tea at 3.30pm, they go home change, have dinner then transport goes to pick them up and drop them back here at the school and then they start studies from 8pm-10pm.

This is an example of our study project. Our initiative – it depends on the leader.

My vision is to have this school to be a role model for all rural schools. So with that considering the factors here especially with parents being subsistence farmers, we’ve gone out to have other fundraising events such as 7s tournaments to help complement some of our school activities.”

“I simply refuse to have students lagging in my school, they have to reach their potential.”

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