Getting selected to study at The University of the South Pacific (USP) is a dream come true for a grandmother of six from Rakiraki.
Kindergarten Teacher Mereoni Vinaka, 49, of Nauria Village was one of the participants of an orientation workshop held at the University of the South Pacific (USP) Lautoka Campus for its Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) program students living in Rakiraki. The one-day workshop held, on 25th April 2019, was attended by close to 30 students from the Rakiraki cohort.
Ms. Vinaka began her teaching journey in 2004 as a teacher at Buca Kindergarten in a remote village in Rakiraki from where she joined the Rakiraki Methodist School in 2010. In 2015, she took a break from her teaching career to pursue a tailoring business.
Ms. Vinaka resumed teaching in 2016 when she was offered a teaching position in Ratu Vatusakiusa Kindergarten. Vinaka said she was paid by the school management then but from 2017 she received pay rise as she started receiving salary from the Government.
The mother of five said she endued many challenges as a pre-school teacher as she had to juggle work and her family responsibilities. “Even though I fulfilled my family commitment I was still criticized by some of my family members, but I did not let that deter me from pursuing my career goals,” she said. Despite the negativities thrown her way, Ms. Vinaka said she remained committed to her work and attended all the ECEC workshops and other trainings held at various venues.
Finally her hard work bore fruit when Ms. Vinaka, along with other kindergarten teachers learned they were eligible and due for a qualification upgrade and she like several others took advantage of this golden opportunity to enroll in this ECEC program offered at USP Lautoka through School of Education.
Ms. Vinaka said she will continue to encourage young girls and women in her village community to not let anything and anyone come in the way of their education and career goals. “Education is very important and we need to grab every opportunity we get to upgrade our qualifications if we want a good future for ourselves and our children,” she said.
Ms. Vinaka graciously thanked USP Lautoka Campus, particularly the School of Education Assistant Lecturer Lalesh Sharma and ECEC Teaching Assistant Barbara Prakash and other staff for organizing and facilitating the workshop. “We learned a lot during this orientation program and I feel so blessed and thankful for the opportunity to be here with my cohort.”
Mr. Sharma said the primary purpose of the workshop was to provide the additional guidance and support to the ECEC students by familiarizing them with the services, facilities and support system available at the Campus. For instance, he said most of the students were new to university life and did not know how to access or utilize the online services and tools, or they were not aware of whom to contact for their specific needs.
“During this workshop the students had the opportunity to get all their queries answered instantly and they also learned a lot about how the Campus operates and about the point of contacts for various matters,” Mr. Sharma said.
Mr. Sharma assured the students the Campus would organize more workshops for them in Rakiraki, facilitated by its SLS team to ensure they were on track with their learning and course requirements.
The orientation featured presentations by various departments at the Campus, namely Student Administrative Support (SAS), Finance, Student Learning Support (SLS), IT Services and Library.