New Years on Kadavu (Part 1)

On Wednesday, December 31, 2014 we flew to the island of Kadavu which is one of the southern islands of the eastern district of Fiji.  Elder and Sister Collins, another senior missionary couple were sent there by the mission president to provide support for the young elders who are serving on the island as well as to assist the branch president with working with inactive members as well as upgrading the chapel and living conditions of the young elders.  It was our intentions to visit the Collins and to help where we could in there efforts to support the branch.

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This was the twin engine airplane that we took for a 35 minute flied from Suva to Vunisea, Kadavu.

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This is a picture of what we were looking at when we were looking straight ahead from our seats.  The next picture is what we saw when we turned around and look at the inside of the airplane.

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The next two pictures are views we saw as we were flying over the ocean to Kadavu.

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As we landed in Vunisea the next several pictures are of the airport the surrounding area of the largest city on Kadavu.

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The main part of Vunisea is right along the ocean…people walking on the road is their mode of transportation.  People walk and walk and walk…many of them for hours at a time to get to their destination.  These people are walking to the market which houses four or five different shops.  These pictures are of the shops at the market.  There is a clothing store, very small grocery store, vegetable stands, a small snack shop, and most of all a place that people just go to talk with one another.DSCF4447

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On New Year’s Eve we went to a small village up in the mountains to visit a member family who had a few small children and we brought some fireworks for them to shoot off.  When we arrived the whole village showed up to see the fireworks. It lasted for about 30 minutes and the children asked their parents when the plalani’s (sp) (white people) could come back so they could see more fireworks.  It was really a special time for the village and for us.

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On New Years Day we toured the island and saw some beautiful scenery…here is some of what we saw.  Well before we show you the pictures of this beautiful island, we needed to get some gas for the car.  Now with the gas prices becoming cheaper in the US and with all the self-serve gas stations, we had to look for gas here and this is what we found and what we had to do.

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As you can see the gas station is very out in the open and not what we are usually looking for when we need gas.  This is a typical gas station, there are only two that we came across where we were staying. We had the only car on the island, the rest are pickup trucks, mostly 4X4’s.

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The gas station attendant had to measure the amount we needed and then pump the gas into a metal container.  After the gas was measured he had to take the container to the car and now you can see what happened…

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After we filled up with close to 50 liters of gasoline, at $2.37 per liter (approx, $10.66 per US gal.), we were on our way to see the sites.

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As we drove around the island, these are the types of roads that we were on, all dirt and rock.  Very few trucks and many people just walking along the side of the road.

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As we drove we stopped from time to time to chat with the locals who were walking along the road, we stopped in some of the villages and received permission to visit.  We had a wonderful time getting to know the real people of Fiji and to feel there compassion for the simple life.  Things do not move to fast in Fiji and that is OK.  Everything works on Fiji time and that means, whenever.  It is definitely something that we have had to get use to.  Nobody, we mean nobody is on time. An example was when we were told that a meeting was going to begin at 7pm, we were 15 minutes late and were the first one’s at the meeting.  The meeting didn’t start until 8:30pm, thats right, 8:30pm.  No one seemed to be concerned at all.  That’s the way it is in Fiji…

DSCF4256 DSCF4257 DSCF4258 DSCF4259 DSCF4263 DSCF4265 DSCF4355 DSCF4356 DSCF4359 DSCF4360 DSCF4361 Just outside of many villages they have a cemetary for the people in the village who pass on.  Because the villages are mostly a closed group, meaning that they are connected through family ties, either direct descendants or by marriage.  It is customary in the Fijian culture that the woman always go to the husband’s village when they get married. Also, in many villages the dead are buried not in a cemetery but in a grave right next to the house where the family lives. It is also very customary to decorate the graves, especially during the Christmas Holiday Season as you will notice in the next several pictures.

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As we had been driving for a few hours on bumpy roads with no gas stations for restrooms for our wives to use, we were encouraged to head back to Vunisea where we were staying.  What a fun, relaxing and enjoyable time seeing and learning about the true life, feelings and spirit of these people. This was very educational, relaxing and spiritual at the same time.

On the way back these are some of what we saw…

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We thought we could make it back but we had to take a break…

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The people we met along the road were really, really friendly and they all like to have their pictures taken. As we met them, most of them were going home after a day in the jungle picking fruits, vegetables, and going in the streams to catch fish, crabs and clams for there evening meals.

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IMG_4664  These along with other fruits and vegetables that grow in the jungle becomes the diet and staples of the Fijian food that maintains their lifestyle.

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After making a few stops to catch glimpses of beautiful scenery, we arrived back in Vunisea, tried, hungry, but very blessed that we had an opportunity to experience such a wonderful country, culture and people of Fiji.

Since we took so many wonderful pictures we will have to continue this travelogue with Part 2. We will put Part 2 together and put it on the blog shortly.  We hope you enjoy Part 1.

Marine Park and Jungle Hike…

Well we had an opportunity to walk in the Fijian jungle, visit a Fijian village and swim and snorkel in a protected marine park along the coral coast approximately a two hour drive from Suva Fiji.  The Stanfords who are not missionaries but live here in Fiji and work for LDS Charities and are from Canada went with us on this discovery experience.  This guided tour was from a village native and was very informative as to what we saw on our way through the jungle to the Fijian village which was called Namada.  A village of 50 homes and approximately 250 residents.  The following pictures was our jungle hike and arriving at the village.

DSCF4001 DSCF4006 DSCF4005 The first picture is our jungle guide Rosova who lived in the village that we were hiking to.  The other two pictures were taken while we were hiking.  The trees in the jungle are huge and you can see the root systems of the trees.  The jungle was very dense at times and then it was like walking in a open air environment.  We walked about 30 minutes to the village.

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We stopped to pose in front of a huge jungle tree along the way. Here are some other thngs we saw along the way.

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Chestnuts

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Mangos, which come in six or seven varieties.

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These are Plantain or cooking bananas on the left and lady finger bananas on the right. The lady finger bananas are really, really good.  There are three or four varieties of bananas in Fiji.

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Bread Fruit, this is a type of fruit that is found in the South Pacific that is cooked and eaten.  Many people like it but we tried and evidently it is an acquired taste in which we have not acquired, up to this point.

Along the way in the jungle we came across vegetable plants that provide food for the villagers and others in the country.  What ever the village doe not need they send to the market to sell to others.  The people of Fiji are self-reliant and they produce the necessary food to sustain themselves.  Their food items are somewhat limited but it sustains them. The plants reproduce and supplies them with their daily needs.

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This plant is a Cassava plant which produces the vegetable called Cassava.  It is a root plant that is used in many Fijian dishes.  Fiji also produces yams, corn (not Iowa corn), dalo (something like potatoes)  cabbage, carrots, etc. Most of the vegetables taste pretty good but we like the US vegetables better.  We maybe a little bias.

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This is a picture of a leaf on one of the jungle trees and Rosova demonstrated that by crushing the leaf and rolling into a ball and then squeezing it the  juice called “a mile a minute” and is used as an antiseptic for cuts, etc.  A very interesting demonstration of a culture using what is available for surviving in the jungle of Fiji.

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Having fun along the way…

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Arriving at the village…

When we arrived at the Namada village we were greeted by one of the villagers who was cutting up a Jackfruit.  This was another fruit that we had heard of but never tried.  We each had a piece and surprisingly it was really good.

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While in the village we had opportunities to visit with some of the villagers and they all wanted to know where we were from and why we were in Fiji.  These people are so friendly and warm and very, very genuine.

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We had an opportunity to visit one of the village churches.  This is a Methodist church which has approximately 40 or 50 members that come on Sunday’s.  One of the more interesting facts,as explained to us, is that on Sunday’s the children sit on the right front part of the church and the mothers also sit on the right side and the men all sit on the left side.  We think that this is a local custom or tradition as we have not heard of this in other Methodist churches either here in Fiji or in the US.

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One of the things we failed to mention when we arrived in the village is that it is a custom in many villages that their family who passes on before them are buried next to their home or in the center of the village.  It is important for family to be close whether they are alive or not.

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After our jungle and village experience we changed our clothes and went to the protected Marine Park which was next to the village.  The ocean is right next to the village.  The pictures tells the story of our snorkeling experience and the fun we had with the native children.

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When the snorkeling was done, we walked back to where we started and strolled along the beach for about a mile and started our journey back to Suva. Along the way, the women stopped and collected sea shells and talked about the beauty of Fiji and the blessings of being here.

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When the day was done, we had a wonderful experience with our Canadian friends the Stanfords and a great opportunity to take a jungle hike into a truly Fijian village and meet some of the nicest people in the world.  The experience of snorkeling in a protected marine reserve and having fun with the local children was really a treasured experience that we will remember for a long, long time.

This entry was posted on December 29, 2014. 1 Comment

Christmas in Fiji 2014

We have just about concluded our first year in the mission field and our first Christmas in Fiji.  It has been a wonderful experience and one we will never, ever forget.  The culture is so different from what we have experienced in the US but the people are so wonderful, caring,welcoming and sincere,  The Fijian people are not caught up in the commercialism of Christmas but more about celebrating the Birth of Christ.  Everything is at a slower pace as it is throughout the year. There was one large Christmas tree at the Domadar Center(Fijian Shopping Center),

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This was a huge tree with ornaments  but no lights.  This next picture is our Christmas tree that we have in our apartment and the Fijian Nativity that we have on our table near the tree.

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On Christmas Eve we joined the other senior missionaries for dinner and then we all went to the Cinema to watch Annie (the most recent production) and we all enjoyed an evening at the movie, On Christmas Day the senior couples and the mission president and his wife all had breakfast together at Eleder and Sister Terry’s (mission office couple) and enjoyed breakfast and talking for hours.  It started at 9am and was over at Noon.

On Christmas Day afternoon, we were invited by our Bishop and his family to join them for Christmas dinner.  The were having a lovo (earth oven) dinner.  This is a traditional Fijian celebration activity,  We had a wonderful time eating and talking about our families and friends. The next several pictures are taken at the Bishop’s home where he was cooking the lovo and you can see what a lovo sight looks like.  Then what the meal was like and finally Bishop Dulaki, his wife, Bishop’s in-lawa and Elder and Sister Decker.

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We spent two or three hours with them and had a great time.  They have eight children with one serving a mission in the West Indes and they were awaiting a telephone call from him.  That is always a special tme for the families back home.

On the day after Christmas (Fiji time) which was Christmas Day in the US, we Skyped our children and their families and we able to hove all of them online at the same time.  What a special time that was to visit with them and catch up on their Christmas celebration.  We Skyped for over an hour and all of us were sad that we had to close so they could have the rest of the day with their families and friends.

After we concluded Skyping we packed up a picnic lunch and headed down the Coral Coast.  We wanted to find a place on the ocean were we could enjoy the sun and fun of Fiji.  We forgot that the day after Christmas here in Fiji was a celebration called Boxing Day, and old English custom and celebration of employers having bags of food and other things to celebrate the employees working for the company.  So here in Fiji and several other English settled islands continue to celebrate the English tradition of Boxing Day.

The following pictures are what we found on Boxing Day as we traveled the Coral Coast here in Fiji.

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We sent the rest of the day reflecting on what we have experienced and the blessing we have enjoyed since coming on this mission.  The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of Christ, our Savior.  We hope that each of you who visit this blog catches the spirit of Christ so each of you can have the blessing and comfort of our Heavenly Father and His son, Jesus Christ.

Till we blog again, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Hall of Excellence and Prom 2014

The school year has ended here in Fiji. The school year goes from mid-January to the mid to end of November.  This is the summer vacation from December to mid-January.  The year has gone fast with a great deal of changes at the LDS College. With a new principal with a new vision it has created a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm.  For some, change is difficult but for many it was a breath of fresh air.

At the college they do not have a formal graduation but what they call a Hall of Excellence.  This is where academic and athletic awards are given out and the year 13 students are honored for their completion of their academic program.  Parents and community members come to view the ceremonies and honor the students who have done a great job.  The program was well attended and well received.

The LDS Primary School also had a “Hall of Excellence” but a more traditional program with the sixth year students dressed in the caps and gowns.  At the Primary School many students were wearing Salu’s which is an indication of honor. Many of them received them from their individual families.  This was very special to see the student’s families take such pride and honoring their children achievement.

At the college on the Friday night of the Hall of Excellence, they also had a Prom for the upper class students. This was held in the gymnasium which was decorated and very well done.  The turn out was very large and everyone was dressed up in their Sunday best clothes. Here are some pictures of both the LDS College and Primary School’s Hall of Excellence Programs.

Fiji LDS College Hall of Excellence and Prom:

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This is some of the student body composes the choir.  They sung as if there were angels in attendance.  They were awesome.  Very moving and spiritual.

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Some of the parents and community members in attendance.

Photo0543 The principal of the college giving out the awards.

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Paula and the  Collins (TVet-ITEP Missionaries) being a part of the celebration.

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The “Lion of the Lord” Award for 2014.  This award is given to the student who has demonstrated spiritual, academic and leadership excellence throughout the year.  This young lady was also given the “Head Girl” honor for the 2015 school year. She is a fantastic person who is gifted in so many areas.

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This family has three children who were all identified as High Honors over the year.  There are twin boys and the older daughter.  A very talented family.  They are from Sri Lanka.

These next pictures are from the Prom that was held in the gymnasium on the LDS Church College Camps.

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The 2014 Prom was a huge success and a great deal of hard work from the students and staff went into making this a great experience.

A Senior Missionary Adventure to McGoon’s Lagoon…

The Senior Missionaries here in Suva Fiji have monthly adventures around the Suva and Viti Levu (name of our island) whenever we get a group who want to do something.  It seems that we are always getting together to celebrate a birthday, senior couple going home or some other reason that we can think of to have some fun together.  The past couple of times we had a group go to McGoon’s Lagoon which is a very small village right on the ocean.  The village is one of those places where you do not want to go if the weather if not very good, so obviously the Saturday the group chose turned out to be a very rainy day and was sort of challenging as we will show you in the pictures that will follow.  It really only rained in the afternoon but when it rained, it rained…

The proprietor of McGoon’s Lagoon were members of the church and invited the seniors for a Saturday outing.  They were going to show us how they net fish and show and tell us about village life.  Because of the rain we did not get a chance to do the fishing but we have been invited back to experience that aspect of village life living on by the ocean.  They feed us extremely well but as you will see in the pictures, they are rather primitive people and they do not have many conveniences when it comes to cooking.   We hope you enjoy the pictures of a really great experience in the bush of Fiji.  The first set of pictures shows the senior missionaries gathering at the mission office to pool rides to McGoon’s Lagoon.  This was about a 45 minute ride down the Coral Coast Highway and then turning into the bush on very difficult roads.  We had to drive about 20 minutes on the dirt and very bumpy roads.

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When we arrived at McGoon’s the following pictures shows what village living is all about.  This is a typical home in a village and they rely on nature for everything.  They live off the land and what they can get from the sea.  Notice the cooking stove and how they use it everyday of their lives.

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The next set of pictures takes you around McGoon’s before the rains came…The first picture shows the native’s getting the nets ready to go fishing and the others are enjoying the surroundings of the area.  Just relaxing right on the ocean.

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Waiting to go net fishing (which never happened) we did some discovery learning by walking down the beach at McGoon’s :Lagoon…we found native boys having fun climbing a coconut tree and having fun jumping off a log into the ocean.

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Right after our walk along the lagoon, our cruise ship came in and those who wanted to cruise the lagoon and go out into the ocean boarded and headed out…this cruise was not for the “faint at heart.”

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Well just as you wondered, the rains came while the cruse was going on and when they got back to shore, they looked a little different…

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It rained and rained and rained…while we waited for lunch, some of us relaxed on the front porch and then wait till you see what happened…

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The porch broke and dropped about 6 to 8 inches and you should of heard the comments from those who WERE NOT ON THE PORCH…One of the men who live there said, “No Worries” (which means don’t worry,) we will get some wood from a tree and fix the porch and that is exactly what they did.  Very resourceful when you live in a sea village.  All of us were really upset as we broke their porch and they were no upset at all, they said that the porch had been there for 20 or30 years and it was time to get repaired.

After that we waited for lunch to be served and we all had a great time before leaving and going back to Suva…thevillage people as well as the city people are some of the friendliest you will ever meet.  They live a very, very megar life and many have absolutely nothing but will give you without asking anything they have to make you feel comfortable and at home… amazing.

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The time at McGoon’s was very special, a time to experience a lifestyle that none of us had experienced ever before. To interact with these special people whose only purpose in life is to be happy, Love Heavenly Father and be of service to their fellow man.  These are truly sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father…

Here are the sisters and sinter-in-laws of the McGoon Family where we visited. They certainly were a team to welcome usand make you feel like family.  Job well done, sisters!!

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LDS Primary School-Suva, Fiji

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Sister Decker has found her comfort zone in Fiji.  It is at the LDS Primary School working with the students there.  So far she and Elder Decker have complete the “Learning Styles Inventory” in grades (years) 2-6.  We are also working on completing the Informal Reading Inventory (IRI) for those same students.  For professional development, we have been emphasizing organization in the classroom.  This begins with plannning ahead.  Since this school year is nerly completed, we are stressing a “Year at a Glance” which will be divided into “Term at a Glance.”

The teachers at each grade level are compiling a document that shows what they will teach for the entire school year.  Then they will divide that document into three terms.  These documents will be given to the parents at the beginning of the school year and at the beginning of each term. Hopefully, the faculty andstaff will realize that plannning ahead will lessen the stress of beginning a new school year.

We will introduce the same the same concept to the faculty and staff of the LDS College when they have their inservice at the close of this school year.  Our goal is to help the teachers plan and organize their classes so both the students, parents and teacher knows the scope and sequence of topics to be covered and gives the parents an understanding of what their children are learning throughout the school year.

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October, 2014 (The Half Way Point)

Well it is hard to believe that we have reached the half way point in our mission experience.  Our mission has been somewhat of a different experience than we expected as the Ministry of Education here in Fiji has still not approved the church’s application to teach courses through Brigham Young University-Hawaii.  It has been a complicated and frustrating process and at the present time we have just received word that the Ministry is now requesting additional information that was identified on the application but now want to see the documentation of the information. This has somewhat become a three ring circus.  We will try to share with you our experiences of what we are doing but please do not think that we are discouraged or depressed.  This is a unique and wonderful experience and one the Lord is teaching us as we experience another culture in another part of the world.  We continue to learn everyday we are here in Fiji.

We are still providing professional development to both the Primary School and LDS Church College faculty and we feel good about what is happening.  Here in the southern Hemisphere the school year is quickly coming to a close as the school year ends the end of November.  Our efforts have been turned to helping teachers to organized themselves and their classes for the next year that starts in mid-January.  Education here in the South Pacific, at least here in Fiji, has its limitations and deficiencies and is geared on the English system of education.  Since it was previously an English colony for many years they have adopted the English way of educating students, however, there are very few resources available.

The biggest concern is lack of leadership in the schools.  It appears that principals and other school leaders are appointed based on the English model and that is very different than the American model that we come from.  This may sound like a little bit of complaining and frustration but it really is not.  There just is a great deal of work that needs to be done and because of the Ministry of Education situation we are not able to accomplish what the Lord would want us to do and how to help these wonderful people who are desperately eager to learn and become better at their craft.

The church is trying to begin a teacher mentoring program that can help struggling teachers and new teachers that are hired.  This will be a cultural change here in Fiji and we would imagine throughout the islands of the south pacific. The culture of these people is very, very important and anytime there is a change it becomes a very difficult implementation process.

What we have tried to do is to spend time on instructional implementation and working with the teachers on trying new teaching strategies in hopes that they may start to see a difference in the performance of students they serve.  This has been very difficult work as change does not come easy to those who are so ingrained in past practice and cultural tradition. There is a tremendous need to assist the administrators in learning and understanding instructional leadership strategies and skills.  We see very little evidence of administrators knowing what is effective teaching, in fact we see very little evidence of administrators going into classrooms and observing teachers except for evaluation purposes. The problem is they evaluate and do not have a clear vision of what effective teaching looks like or what they are seeing.  In the south pacific, Fiji for sure, and I am sure the other islands as well there is a need to provide professional development for principals and what their role should be in the 21st century school.  From our evaluation this is the only way that the children of the south pacific will be able to survive in a world that is moving quickly in a direction that will leave the south pacific students at a major disadvantage for generations to come.

An example of this is we are working at the Primary School with the reading program and helping teachers learn how to evaluate the reading level of their students.  The Primary School is a school for students who enter at kindergarten through year six.  They call grades here years.  In the US it would be a K-6 school.  In helping the teachers to understand their students reading and comprehension reading level, it is not to uncommon to find some 5th and 6th year students reading at the primer and pre-primer levels.  Just to be fair to those of you who understand what we are talking about here, we also have some students who are reading at the 8th and 9th year levels also, but those students are very few in number.  most of the students are reading and comprehending anywhere between one to three years behind there grade placement. There is no program for remedial reading or resources, either human or material to provide such a program.  There appears that there is no vision or rush to provide such resources and if there were material resources available there are no human resources available to carry out the needed programs.

The present administrator at he college, in his first year in Fiji and first year as a principal has done a very good job in identifying the limitations and needs of the school. Hopefully he will stay at the school for a period of time to implement and see through the initiatives that he is trying to put into place.  He has the potential to be an exceptional leader and one that is sorely needed at this time.

Thanks for reading this post, we are having the time of our lives and we are so grateful that the Heavenly Father has seen fit to call us to serve the people of Fiji.  These are wonderful and beautiful people who are proud of who they are and want to do better.  They love the Lord and we see that everyday in the schools that we serve.  The church schools are strong in spiritual education and the children are getting a spiritual education that will build strong testimonies for the rest of there lives.  It brings tears to our eyes as we watch and interact with these sweet children and youth as they grow and develop the skills and abilities in becoming an adult.  The isles of the South Pacific are a special place.  Life is slow but it is direct and the people are God fearing and want to do what is right.

This entry was posted on October 13, 2014. 1 Comment