Special ‘babies’

Sigatoka School for Special Education head teacher Asenaca Sukanatabua with her students. Picture: SUPPLIED

THE relationship Asenaca Sukanatabua forged with her “babies” for the past 28 years is one that will always leave a lasting impression in her heart.

In fact, these babies are not her biological children but the students of Sigatoka School for Special Education where she has been teaching for more than 25 years.

A little conversation with the Vadravadra woman from Gau and she would just go emotional sharing her journey at the school she has called home for many years.

She had taught in two schools in the remote Navosa district during her early teaching years before she was approached to join her colleagues at the Sigatoka-based school.

“I will always remember my first day at school where I had to cry while walking out of the classroom because my students were making a fun of me as I was doing the wrong sign languages for them,” Mrs Sukanatabua shared.

“And being a teacher, I could not stand seeing my own students making fun of me.
“My leaders have always pushed me to the next level and they see in me a will to try harder, I also knew this was God’s plan for me and I knew this was the plan he had prepared for me.”

As years went on, she later realised that she had developed a special love for children with special needs.

Mrs Sukanatabua started off as a classroom teacher before going up the ranks to be handed the head teacher’s role a few years ago.

It took her two years to learn and fully understood sign language before she could teach proper sign languages to her students.

Whatever struggles she went through, she always acknowledge God for giving her the courage to keep pushing and keep working hard.

As a teacher, facing challenges are part of Asenaca’s daily routine.

These included children’s behavioural problems, broken families and students refusing to learn because they may have gone through a sad day at home.

“And these are children with special needs, they need extra special treatment and care to be able to get their minds and thinking back to the classroom when something bad happens to them.

“I always take into consideration that they come from different family backgrounds and they needed to be properly nurtured and cared for.”

And when a student goes through a difficulty in school, Asenaca will be the first one to give him a hug and let him know that there is something
good in store for him in the future.

A week ago, Asenaca could not hold back her tears as she received a $5000 cheque from the Tappoo Foundation for the school.

She shared the good relationship she has been able to share with many business houses in Sigatoka who have always assisted her in the students’ education.

Today, the 50-year-old could only sit and look back at the great achievement she has done for the Sigatoka-based school as a number of her “babies” have graduated and are working in the hospitality industry.

“I feel relieved that God has put me in the right position, I shed tears all the time there is an achievement in school when I think of all the times I had gone through with most of these students.

“These students, although, they have special needs are amazing because of their speciality in different areas.”

And retiring is not on Mrs Sukanatabua’s mind because she is not ready to leave behind her “babies” and she would love to continue teaching them as she would love to see them succeed in the future.

If there is an advice Mrs Sukanatabua would love to share with fellow Fijians is never look down on people with special needs, they can be successful and they can work “all we need to do is change the way we look at them”.

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