Dr. David Mapuru – Santa Isabel, Solomon Islands

Mapuru’s unwavering faith despite decade-long rejection

Rejection often invokes a specific range of feelings, such as loneliness, jealousy, guilt, shame, social anxiety, embarrassment, sadness, pain and anger, but what you do after the rejection determines your character.

Now imagine being rejected over and over for 10 long years simply because one yearned to pursue education for a chance at a better life.

Amid the ebb and flow of progress in the Solomon Islands capital city of Honiara back in the 1980s, David Mapuru struggled to grasp the concept of education as a launching pad for a better life.

Mapuru, the eldest of two siblings, grew up in a strict household that emphasised education as a pathway to success.

“My upbringing is something I will always carry with me. Even though it was autocratic, I later realised it bore positive fruit in life.”

Like most children in his peri-urban district, Mapuru attended Kaloale Primary and had the support of his parents and that of his extended family throughout his early years.

 However, he struggled with his studies and often wondered how other students scored good marks while he barely passed some of his exams.

As time passed, Mapuru figured out how to cope with his studies to score good marks and even compete with two other students in his class for the top three positions.

This continued until he sat for his entrance exam, eventually determining which high school he would attend in his quest for knowledge.

“When I received my entrance exam result, I realised that I didn’t perform well and was forced to attend a high school I didn’t like. I remember how disappointed I felt, and I cried a lot.”

During high school, Mapuru decided to take science as he had always imagined himself working as an engineer after obtaining his qualification from The University of the South Pacific (USP).

“Once I finished Year 12, I sat for another entrance exam that would allow me to go on to my dream university, USP, but I was disappointed that I didn’t get a scholarship that would allow me to go to the Laucala campus.”

“In 1992, I interned at an engineering company before I got a scholarship to go to Fiji to pursue my Diploma with the then Fiji Institute of Technology. After I got my Diploma, I returned to the Solomon Islands and worked in a middle management position at the same engineering company.”

Mapuru worked for the same company from 1996 to 2008 without a prospect of a promotion as he competed with those with a degree for higher positions. This motivated him to give his dream of studying at USP another shot with the hope he’d be able to get his Bachelor’s Degree from the region’s premier institution.

However, the path to higher education wasn’t easy for Mapuru as his applications from 1998 to 2007 were all rejected.

“I applied in 1998, 1999, and 2000 but was not accepted. In 2001, there was an issue with the scholarship authority, and it was closed; I kept applying every year after that for the chance to come and get a degree from USP, and I was not given any scholarship.”

This rejection took a toll on Mapuru as he felt his chances of success in engineering and life slowly slip away for an entire decade, one year at a time.

“Every year I received the result of my application, I would not eat for almost two weeks, and I was depressed because others were going to USP, and I was not given a chance.”

Despite being rejected numerous times, Mapuru gave himself one last shot in 2008 as he filed for another application; however, this time, he decided to change his programme and opted to pursue Management studies.

His faith was renewed when he received a letter of acceptance from USP and the scholarship office in the Solomon Islands to pursue his studies in Management at the Laucala campus in Fiji.

“I came to the Laucala campus in 2009 and was in my early 30s. Moving to Fiji was exciting and tough at the same time because I had to move to a new country with my wife and son.”

“Seeing the Laucala campus for the first time in 2009, I was surprised at how big it is, but I was happier because of the diversity of students on campus. There were fellow Wantoks and students from all Pacific Island countries.”

As class started, Mapuru faced another challenge, but this time, it was his fear of not being able to keep up with the students in his class who were fresh out of high school.

“I felt threatened because I had been working for over 10 years, out of touch with modern education. I felt inferior to them; my ability to conceptualise and remember things was not the same as those fresh out of high school.”

“I will never forget a chat I had with one of my friends. His name is Semi, and he is a Fijian. I told him that I was scared because there had been a high failure rate for Solomon Island students who came before me, and I did not want to add to those statistics. He sat me down and told me that getting something more than a B is easy. At first, I did not understand what he meant, and as time went on, I started to find my flow, and I was excited that I was getting good grades.”

When his degree programme ended in 2011, Mapuru had to face the prospect of returning home or continuing studying and relied on his spouse to care for their son.

“The thought of trying to get into USP for 10 years taunted me, so I stayed back and pursued my postgraduate in 2013, which took six months to finish, and soon after, I started my Masters degree.”

“Through my hard work during my undergraduate and postgraduate level, I secured a scholarship offered by the USP Research Office to do my Masters. I knew this was my opportunity to achieve a milestone for myself, my family, and my province.”

Mapuru described his education journey as one full of sacrifices. He credits his success to his wife for being a pillar of support, raising their son and managing their household.

The knowledge seeker started his PhD studies in 2014 and completed it in 2017 before his family returned to the Solomon Islands after dedicating nine years in Fiji in pursuit of education.

Once back home, Mapuru joined USP in 2018 as staff with the Pacific Technical and Further Education (TAFE), imparting his gained knowledge to help the youth of his country chase their dream just as he did his.

In 2020, he returned to the Laucala Campus in Fiji with his family as an Assistant Lecturer at the School of Business Management, helping shape the next generation of the Pacific workforce and leaders.

Mapuru’s never-give-up attitude inspired his younger sister to follow in his footsteps, attaining her degree in Management and Accounting from the regional institute, pursuing her Master’s from USP and is now teaching at the Solomon Islands National University.

Besides his sister, Mapuru’s son also joined USP’s Bachelor of Environmental Science programme, attained his qualification and is now completing his Masters in the same field.

Reflecting on his academic pursuits and the sacrifices he and his family made, Dr Mapuru advises, “It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get where you want to be, as long as you don’t give despite what life throws your way, you’ll eventually get there. Everyone has a different timeline, so don’t compare yourself to others.”

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