H.E Major General (Ret’d) Jioji Konusi Konrote, President of Fiji delivers his opening address.
His Excellency Major General (Ret’d) Jioji Konusi Konrote, President of Fiji, officially opened the 2018 Vaka Pasifiki Education Conference (VPEC) at The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Laucala Campus on 5 July 2018.
The theme for VPEC 2018 is : It takes an island and an ocean: Rethinking Pacific Education for resilient, healthy communities.
This conference follows the VPEC 2016, marking “education for what? Revisited.” VPEC provides an opportunity for the sharing of ideas, presentation of research and best practice, and teaching and learning in Oceania.
The conference theme was deliberated through four (4) platforms of sharing which are; the Tok Stori, which is drawn from the Melanesian cultures of sharing information and stories; the Ako, drawn from the Polynesian reference to education, schooling, and learning; the Maneaba, from the I-Kiribati and Tuvaluan traditional format for communal dialogue; and the Lan, which is from the Marshallese word for sky, reflecting our hope for the future.
To support the Vaka, the University also launched an App that saw programmes and conference papers uploaded to the App. The use of this App was to demonstrate that technology can support the traditional knowledge and culture.
Talking about the theme, H.E Konrote said that it is an appropriate and important reminder of the challenges that people need to overcome, not only as individuals, but as a collective group in the ongoing effort to lay a solid foundation for the children of the Pacific, adding that the theme reflects the islands’ culture and community.
“Part of this year’s Vaka theme – It takes an Island and Ocean, rings true in that it will take a collaborative effort and holistic approach to change and to rethink our current situation and to encourage more resilient and healthier communities,” H.E Konrote said.
He further highlighted that as a region, there are a number of opportunities to make the voices of the Pacific heard in safeguarding their people, ocean, and environment from current threats like climate change.
Adding to this, he mentioned that through Fiji’s presidency of the ongoing United Nations climate change negotiations or COP23, the region has the chance to demonstrate their ability to address an issue that has a profound impact on all of us in the Pacific.
Participants of the Vaka Pasifiki Education Conference 2018.
H.E Konrote reminded the participants that as educators, they all have a pivotal role to play in the success of the Pacific peoples and nations.
He commended those who initiated the Vaka concept and those who persevered over the years to bring this biennial event to fruition and also took the opportunity to thank those who have prepared research papers and acknowledged the conference sponsors.
Mr Winston Thompson, USP Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council said that the Pacific Island region is facing unprecedented challenges which can only be effectively addressed by the collective approach that the conference presented.
“Gathered in this room is an incredible array of the energy and expertise that can provide guidance for the education and training of our people, so that they can grab the opportunities from the changes swirling around us,” Mr Thompson said.
He thanked and congratulated the organsiers for their dedication towards the organisation of the conference, which is held once every two years, and particularly acknowledged Dr Seu’ula Johansson, Director of USP’s Institute of Education for her coordination role.
Professor Konai Helu Thaman, renowned Pacific educationalist and Professor of Pacific Education and Culture at USP’s School of Education said that through the conference, she would like to see lots of sharing of experiences and knowledge.
Professor Thaman acknowledged the fact that the Conference used a Pacific format, and added that she hopes that the discussions/outcomes will be compiled as books, for use by Pacific students because she commented that it is difficult to find resources that suit the Pacific needs.
A total of 113 papers were presented over the two-day conference.
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