USP Alumni Network

Name: Devendran Kumaran
Country: Fiji
Programme: Diploma in Education (Industrial Arts, 1972), Bachelor in Education (Industrial Arts, 1977)  

Why did you choose your field of study?
From a very early age, I enjoyed creativity and construction works, so to study towards a Diploma in Industrial Arts seemed an appropriate route to career choice. Later, after teaching for 3 years, I returned to USP and obtained a Bachelor in Education (Industrial Arts). During 1982-1984, I also studied in London (UK) where I did an MPhil in Architecture.

Briefly reflect on your student life at USP.
Fiji governmentís offer of a scholarship for tertiary study was a highly opportune and serious calling for me; I was a child from a poor, rural family, so my 3 years at USP was tough, meaning having to work all the time towards qualifying. I guess most if not everyone took university life seriously. This is not implying I didnít enjoy social life; I did but any fun and outing were always of secondary priority. Under the mostly expatriate USP staff, those days, there was no time for laxity in assignmentsí submissions or timely attendance of lectures or punctuality and quality contributions in tutorials; above all, I was burning with desire to benefit in accumulating the widest wealth of knowledge, thus further my lifeís experiences. More importantly, I didnít perceive university life as total freedom from the social restrictions I experienced whilst growing up at home. While at USP, I had a serious job to indulge in, so I put all my efforts into them. I couldnít ever disappoint my parentsí desires for me to achieve tertiary education.

Later in 1976, when I returned to undertake a 2-year degree studies, life was no different; I constantly studied hard and always strived for the best.

Greatest achievements as a student.
I graduating successfully in 1972, with distinction, can be termed my greatest feat; more so I was a gold medallist from USPís 1972 batch of Diploma in Education graduates. For information, since the USP commenced in 1968, and the DipEd program starting in 1969, I was in the second graduating group of Diploma in Education students coming out of the university. Also, as submission of my major research project towards DipEd, I fabricated a working model of a miniature pressure steam engine; the tiny creation chugged silently and mesmerised everyone around. In 1977, in a major study/research projectís submission towards my B.Ed. degree, I designed and built a 2-seater, 4-wheeled buggy, using a Kawasaki motor bike engine; the appearance of the final project, with me in the driverís seat, on the front pages of the Fiji Times, entitled ĎFijiís first locally built carí was a grandeur studentship achievement I savour.

Career highlights since graduation.
After graduating with DipEd in 1972, I taught at Natabua High School, in Lautoka, for 3 years and was awarded another scholarship; I was to study once again at the USPís Laucala campus. On completion, I was recruited at Ministry of Educationís HQ in Selbourne Street, to help design and implement a totally new curriculum for technical/vocational teaching in Fijiís secondary schools. After having undertaken that job for 3 years, I was seconded (in 1981) to the Central Planning Office to help establish a new energy planning, management and development department for government (of Fiji); I became its Director in 1989. I worked as Director of Energy until early 2002, when in September that year I was appointed as a deputy in the Ministry of Works. There I was charged to steer various institutional reform programs towards corporatisation of water and services departments of government. I sat on numerous boards and committees, and attended meetings and conferences both locally and globally.

Who/what do you credit your success to? What inspires you?
All credit goes to my dad who, having not attended even a single class of formal education, always urged his children to read and learn widely; dad always said Ďa pen is a vision into the futureí. My parentsí continuous support towards their childrenís education and dadís inculcating of ethics of hard work has been the most treasured gift of my life. Dad always pushed me to become Ďsomeone importantí in life and to be one with right thoughts and actions. I guess that my financially poor upbringing and struggles in meeting day-to-day needs in life, as done by my parents, inspires and pushes me still today; I do not wish to see a repeat of poverty and a life of disadvantaged or underprivileged. I was and still am determined to do more than what my parents did, although theirs wasnít any less an achievement. I always held big dreams to do something great and give back to humanity what teachings of resilience and determination, my parents instilled in me.

How do you think USP helped you in your career?
Tertiary education was the second tier foundation in my achieving all which I did. In my novel, A Hint of Blue (published in 2013), I say USP is a sleek ship with the best on-board crew any learning institution can provide; such is my hope, I guess. Educationís delivery at USP, in the 70s, was more focussed on developing basic life skills and there were ample real life projects to indulge in to bolster academic learning and skillsí training. There always existed a problem solving environment in whatever was at hand in educational learning. As a consequence I have become one who constantly seeks answers; today I believe such training has made me a good and purposeful Fijian and helping me in doing something towards building an even better Fiji.

Describe any challenges you faced and how you overcame those challenges.
As a student and career public servant undertaking tasks, within a courseís syllabus or in my jobís duty statement and which performances were of pioneering type, was difficult those days; it was more so because getting hold of up-to-date information and accessing them speedily was a major constraint. Unlike today when there are digitals and Google, Bing and Yahoo or whatever, in those days we wrote to research institutions and persons for info and read widely for upskilling ourselves in knowledge.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years (career and/or personal goals)?
I voluntarily retired from civil service (in 2006) to write my autobiography; I had that book published in 2010. Following that first success, I set myself to write more literature of comprehensive nature. Up till 2015, I have published 4 books in total, i.e., Mannuís Karma, A Hint of Blue, The Luxman Factor (Feb. 2015) and Dogman (Aug. 2015); another book is currently in making. At the age of 55, I made plans to produce up to 10 books by the time I turn 75; now as I gradually wind down on my current strenuous and physical indulgence, in construction work, I see that dream becoming a reality.

Whilst doing all the recent literary work, I have been constructing another building. Since 1978, I have constructed the building in which I live, I built another double story building on a plot in Ragg Avenue in Tamavua and now, for the last 6 years, I have been erecting a single storey dwelling at the back of my current home in Padam Lala Road; the concrete, iron and timber creation is in finishing stages and nearing completion. I love my construction hobby; apart from the 3 domestic buildings, which I constructed mostly single-handedly, I also built nearly 90 pieces of finest quality furniture and handicrafts made of local timber and metal; most of my smaller craft work is out of recycled materials. Iím a great RRR advocate. I work, still today, for 20 hours a day; my favourite mantra, ďthereís no time to sleep, no time to restĒ. My work habits are as consistent as the daily rise and setting of the sun; in other words, I donít just work, I am work.

What advice would you give to current and future students of USP?
USP has an impeccable history of producing this nationís top citizens; I say, cherish that legacy and realise the passion and oomph it brings but that only by giving your best shot at academic achievements and if possible doing so with excellence. Reach out to the frontiers and help further this infant nationís fullest potential and into one of greatness.

Please share top 3 tips that you think are most important for our current students or recent graduates that will help them when starting out on their career paths.
Happiness in life comes from harmony in diversity in thought, what you say and how you act. For students, I say you hear more, say less and do plenty which is at hand or which come in the way of opportunities; opportunities unrealised are chances squandered. When you venture out into the employment sector, remember, life is about problem solving; without knowledge and skills, there will not be wisdom, therefore success. And most importantly, earning is not entirely about reporting elsewhere to do a job in return for a pay packet. I use every second in time, available to me, to realise a good outcome; good karma is invaluable for a successful life and is vital for pleasurable living. Now at my age, I have the luxury and backdrop in heaps of experiences and which I now share via publication of books of stories about my life and those of Fijians and global communities.

What has your involvement been with the university since you graduated?
Since 1970, I have constantly visited the USP Laucala Bay campus; those visitations were not only as a student but later in attending meetings for discussions in various fields, i.e., education, energy, management and planning and others. My novel, A Hint of Blue is based mostly on USP studentsí life in physicality and academia.

Any other information you would like to share.
Teaching and learning at tertiary level must solely be about research or investigation and creativity; only beyond the realm of everyday life and doings, lie creativity and magic. We must search and research and do more search. There is a whole load which awaits research and study by knowledgeable and inquisitive ones; students should assist in finding answers.

Other.
Additional info can be obtained from my webpage www.mannuskarma.com. Also, my wife (since 1974), whom I met at USP but must say, never courted for fear of not doing well in my academic studies, is also retired; she worked as a secondary school teacher in Fiji. Maya, like I, has numerous skills in creative work. I have a daughter who is a gynaecologist and fellow of RANZCOG, working in the field of IVF at Monash medical centre and a son who works as an IT systemsí administrator for MYOB (Manage Your Own Business).

I am glad for the wide variety and depth of knowledge I gained, including from my stints at USP. My wide experience and knowledge has earned me a title of guru from close associates. Lastly and most importantly, I appreciate highly this opportunity to tell my story as USP alumni.


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