Professor of Pacific Education and UNESCO Chair in Teacher Education and Culture, Professor Konai Helu Thaman after receiving her award.
A Professor at The University of the South Pacific (USP) was awarded the 2015 Pacific Circle Consortium’s (PCC) Peter Brice Award in recognition of over four decades of service in education and research in the Pacific.
Professor of Pacific Education and UNESCO Chair in Teacher Education and Culture, Professor Konai Helu Thaman thanked the organisers and PCC for the award.
Professor Thaman encouraged emerging academics and scholars to continue the fight for relevance and quality to meet the needs of the region and reminding them to never give up.
The award ceremony, which followed the 39th PCC Conference, included the presentation of traditional garlands from Fiji, Rotuma, Tonga and Solomon Islands, representative of the USP region.
Professor Thaman who hails from Tonga, received her Bachelor’s degree at Auckland University, her Master’s degree at the University of California and her PhD at USP in Suva. She is one of the longest serving USP staff members having joined the University in 1974.
Her illustrious teaching career began in the late 1960s when she returned to Tonga as a young graduate to teach. Professor Thaman has held numerous teaching and administrative positions including that of Head of School, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Director.
In 1999, she was one of the key founding members of the Rethinking Pacific Education initiative for and by Pacific islanders, now known as Vaka Pasifiki. The movement is a response to the call for Pacific educators and scholars to take responsibility in collaboratively working towards transformative action from within.
She has developed and taught various courses and programmes at the undergraduate and postgraduate level and supervised numerous Master of Arts and PhD Students, many of whom have gone on to hold significant positions in education in the Pacific.
Professor Thaman is well known for her love of poetry which has been published internationally and translated into numerous languages.
In education and research, she is recognised as a humble activist driven by the need to improve the quality and relevance of education in the Pacific islands. Her seminal work on Kakala, a Tongan philosophy of teaching and learning has evolved over the years into a research framework, a methodology, and an evaluation framework.
Associate Professor Carol Mutch, Head of Critical Studies in Education, Auckland University in presenting the award to Professor Thaman said that there was no other scholar more deserving of this recognition.
Dr. Koya Vaka’uta who introduced the Professor said she continued to be a beacon of light, a champion and mentor for Pacific islanders and that her legacy would continue to resonate over the years to come.
The Peter Brice Award is presented annually by the conference host country to an individual who best exemplifies the aims of the PCC. Peter Brice represented New Zealand in the early days of the PCC when it was under the auspices of the OECD. He was an officer in the New Zealand Ministry of Education at the time. Upon his passing, his wife graciously worked with the PCC to develop an award in his honour. Mr. Brice is best remembered for his wisdom, his humanity and his lifelong commitment to educational ideals.
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