The road to reward

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Retired teacher and Ekubu Village entrepreneur, Isaia Batiratu, beats masi. Picture : USP/ SUPPLIED

Isaia Batiratu’s humble upbringing may have been a challenge but it paved the way to a rewarding career.

During his laid-back childhood days, Mr Batiratu had to endure struggles to guarantee his placement at the then Lautoka Teachers College in Lautoka. Becoming an educator was a job he had yearned for ever since his primary school days.

He attended Vatulele District School from 1983 to 1990 before pursuing his secondary education at Lelean Memorial School, Queen Victoria School and Nasinu Secondary School.

“Our upbringing was different, and we were taught the value of hard work,” Mr Batiratu said in a University of South Pacific online article.

“After completing secondary school, I sat for my University Entrance Examination and came to spend Christmas in the village.

“When the school opened the following year, there was no preschool teacher, so I took up the position even though I had just sat my University entrance.

That was my pathway to teaching in the early 1990s. In a communal setting, where dropping out of school was often seen as a norm, Mr Batiratu worked hard to set a benchmark. He did this to set an example for the younger generation and to drive change in the community.

He spent two years coordinating early childhood education at the district school before pursuing further his studies at the Lautoka Teacher’s College.

“After graduating from teachers’ college, I was posted to a few schools in the rural and maritime zones,”the article quoted Mr Batiratu as saying.

“Then I was posted to teach at Vatulele District School as I always wanted to go back and teach my own people and remained in the village until I was promoted to head teacher position”.

After spending more than a decade teaching, Mr Batiratu decided to pursue his postgraduate studies at the University of the South Pacific (USP). To attend classes, Mr Batiratu had to travel to Suva from the island.

“Every Friday afternoon of the second week, I had to catch the Vatulele Island Resort plane to Nadi, sleep at the Nadi Hotel, catch the early morning plane to Suva on Saturday, and travel to USP to attend my classes,” Mr Batiratu said.

“After my classes, I would fly to Nadi, sleep at the hotel, and catch the plane back to Vatulele on Sunday morning. All these expenses were paid for by the mataqali or village clan.”

Mr Batiratu chose to do his Postgraduate Diploma at USP following advice from a few of his friends who said USP was the only higher institution in Fiji that provided higher and quality education in the Pacific.

The retired teacher said many of his relatives from the village had graduated from USP in recent years.

After spending more than 20 years in the classroom, the Education Ministry appointed Mr Batiratu to the position of education officer at the Nadroga/Navosa education office in Lawaqa, Sigatoka.

He spent at least four years at the office before retiring in 2020 and decided to return to his village and start a masimaking business.

“A year before retiring, I planted 100 masi plants which were ready for harvest when I returned to the village. Now, I can make a little more than $100 a day from tapa making.”

Apart from being an entrepreneur, Mr Batiratu uses his skills and experience to encourage other masi makers in the village to learn the importance of time management.

He coordinates financial literacy sessions in the village at least twice a year.

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