Feature Story by Fiji Times online.
A village girl's sojourn in life
Monday, May 26, 2008
IF you are a career woman, it can be hard managing your work and family, especially when you have 12 children.
But as the saying goes behind every successful man is a strong woman in Sulita Dugu's case, she had the support of her husband who made life a whole lot easier.
Sulita is the deputy headteacher at Holy Family Primary School in Labasa, Vanua Levu.
Her story about growing up in the interior of Macuata province, her journey into boarding school until she became a teacher reads like a bestselling biography.
Second in a family of four children, Sulita often played the role of eldest because her older brother was brought up by an aunt.
Her parents were simple villagers and farmers but her father worked hard for their future.
Her father Aisake Matayau went to Navuso Agricultural School to learn about tilling and planting the land.
He returned to the village after Navuso and started a dairy farm.
"We stayed on a farm near Nacaurokovi Village but the village had to relocate so the people could be near the main road.
"The actual village was called Naroqali and it was in the interior between Savusavu and Labasa.
"The new village site was near the main road for convenience.
"My father received limited education but he was able to apply the knowledge of agriculture he learnt at Navuso to start a farm.
"The cattle farm did not work out though because some people in the village said our cattle were polluting the water so my father stopped it and started a chicken farm.
"That too did not turn out well so he switched to yaqona and dalo farming.
"I remember watching my father waking up early in the morning to take dalo and grog to sell at the market.
"He used to walk in the dark with his kerosene lamp.
"The main road was far from where we lived and my father did all that to support us."
With her father's daily routine to the market, Sulita said they and their mother spent most of the time living alone until he came home.
She said her father would come back late at night from the market but they would eagerly be waiting for him and whatever goodies he brought home.
She said her father was a disciplined man and always stressed to them to go to school and work hard to get a better life.
"He did not want us to struggle in life as he did.
"The place we lived in was called Senitebe and our home was a Fijian bure.
"Everything in the village was very traditional but my father made sure we went to school.
"When I was six, my mother thought I was too young to go to school but my father would no accept it.
"I had always wanted to be a teacher. We went to primary school at Nabala Catholic Mission near Naduri. It was near the sea and a boarding school. "I started boarding from Class One and it was very hard.
"We had to do everything on our own but lucky for us we were looked after by nuns from the order of the Sisters of Our Lady of Nazareth (SOLN).
"From Nabala, I passed to Loreto High School at Tokou on Ovalau.
It was an all-girls Catholic school run by the nuns which later merged with the all-boys St John's College at Cawaci to be co-educational.
"I was one of the first senior students at the co-ed St John's College.
"I am among the fortunate students to be taught, inspired and motivated by the teachings of the Marist priests and nuns. For me, I have come to realise that you can only achieve great things if you work hard and are confident in what you do."
The tough boarding life groomed Sulita to be independent later in life.
In 1974, she enrolled at Corpus Christi Teachers Training College in Suva and graduated two years later as a teacher.
Her first posting was to St Peter Chanel School at Korolevu on the Coral Coast.
Like most first-timers, Sulita was nervous but excited at the prospect of going out into the professional world.
She says being a teacher is one the greatest privileges in life because she teaches and listens to children in primary school and it is always overwhelming for her.
"Being a teacher has always been my dream ever since I started school.
"As teachers, we have to be understanding and compassionate about the work we do.
"We listen to children and help them understand more about life.
"I was part of the excellence in education program organised by the Training and Productivity Authority of Fiji.
"It was an eye-opener for me as a teacher.
"I had always wanted to join a training program such as the one I attended to broaden my knowledge and scope on time management and how to develop students holistically to become better citizens.
"Managing my time as a teacher and looking after 12 children of my own is not easy but I am fortunate to have a husband who is hardworking and very understanding.
"I had four children when I was teaching in Lautoka and Ba.
"My other eight children were born when we moved to Seaqaqa.
"My husband was very good and considerate.
"When I had our children, he stayed home to look after them, cooking and doing the work at home.
"After our children grew up, he started working again."
In 2004, Sulita was appointed chaperon of the junior ambassadors of Fiji to Fukuoka in Japan.
Her parents bought a cane farm at Seaqaqa and she helped support her younger brother with his education. Her brother Romanu Turaganiwai is a doctor.
She said an important advice young people should follow is listen to your parents.
She said peer pressure made it hard for some people to listen to their parents. Sulita is a proud mother and grandmother.
One thing she is proud of is her 107-year-old grandmother who is still alive to see five generations of her clan.