Saturday, 26 June 2021

Pacific-based ‘Youths for Integrity’ Network Choose Whistleblowing Vice Chancellor as “Pacific Integrity Champion 2021”

 Authored by Grace Konrote, Shalom Tehillati, Maria Yavala and Samu Walosio on behalf of YOUTHS FOR INTEGRITY FIJI.

Professor Pal Ahluwalia, the whistleblowing Vice Chancellor of the prestigious University of the South Pacific (USP), has a courageous story that seems like it came out of a popular Netflix thriller movie. In November 2018, he was appointed Vice Chancellor after an international head-hunting search found him to be the best candidate for the position.

In March 2019 (after whistleblowers from within the University approached him) he prepared a confidential report alleging widespread financial irregularities under his predecessor, including allegations of massive salary increases, misappropriation of allowances and unearned promotions.

The Vanuatu Daily Post (11/9/2019) reported that the auditor BDO Auckland provided a damning report largely vindicating Ahluwalia. Some of Ahluwalia’s allegations were not possible to verify “due to the level and/or quality of documentation retained by the USP”, it highlighted. The BDO report stated that concerns about financial irregularities had been raised during three consecutive audits and were still unaddressed.

In 2020, Professor Ahluwalia was suspended by the USP’s Executive Committee made up of appointees of his predecessor. There were massive protests from students and staff and his suspension was overturned by the University Council.

ABC news reported on February 4th, 2021 that about 13 police and immigration officers raided Professor Ahluwalia’s on-campus home just before midnight. He and his wife were given a few minutes to pack and then driven at high speed in a three-car convoy to Nadi, where they were placed under police guard and then bundled off on a flight to Brisbane.

In a statement, the Fijian Government said Professor Ahluwalia and Ms Price were ordered to leave Fiji after continuous breaches of the Immigration Act. "No foreigner is permitted to conduct themselves in a manner prejudicial to the peace, defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, security or good government of Fiji," the statement reported on ABC news on 4/2/2021 noted.

Professor Ahluwalia admits in a report in FBC news on 25/11/2019 that as a whistleblower, “it has been a year of hell. I have suffered enormously and so has my family for doing the right thing. There have been many days I have contemplated why I have come to Fiji but I felt there was a calling, that I had to give back and as God is my witness that you know what I did was the right thing. And I think at the end of it once we get over all the emotions the best thing is that this will never happen again.”

He emphasised that his motive for writing the report was due to the fact that he was a new Vice-Chancellor and was constantly receiving information from whistleblowers within the university. 

 Professor Ahluwalia’s contract was recently renewed by the University Council and he will now be based in Samoa. The Fijian Government has provided a statement through Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum stating the appointment of Professor Ahluwalia as the USP Vice-Chancellor is illegal. Sayed-Khaiyum clarified that the charter and the regulations of USP are quite specific. “As the contract says, when a person’s contract is terminated because of the fact that their work permit gets cancelled, their contract automatically gets terminated. That is what is stipulated. The process is to advertise the position, go through a selection panel and then appoint a vice-chancellor.” He adds that Fiji’s position in the appointment of any vice-chancellor was to follow the established process. (Reported in the Fiji Times on 7/6/2021.)

 Professor Ahluwalia told the Guardian on 7/2/2021, “I believe integrity comes from the top down. I want to show people that it’s possible to do the right thing.”

 In a Pacific region suffering from the huge challenges of the pandemic, there is need for courageous whistleblowing leaders and Professor Ahluwalia stands out as a great role model especially for young people.

The University of the South Pacific is a shining light of higher education in the region, and over the years it has mentored the best and brightest students. Professor Ahluwalia’s courageous whistleblowing action has upheld the culture of integrity with region wide support from other key stakeholders – Pacific leaders, civil society organisations, media and Pacific youth. For this we are very deeply grateful.

On the occasion of World Whistleblower Day, Youths for Integrity Fiji has chosen Professor Pal Ahluwalia as PACIFIC INTEGRITY CHAMPION 2021.

 We call upon Pacific leaders to build on this positive momentum and create a stronger supportive environment for the emergence and protection of many more whistleblowers like Professor Ahluwalia across the region.

 We also call for urgency in finalising the investigations around the USP governance allegations made to enable justice and reform to ensure that public resources are effectively utilised for the delivery of quality education for Pacific youth across the region.

 YFI is a national online network of 3,800 youths who are part of CLCT INTEGRITY FIJI (accredited National Contact for Transparency International.) The network was set up for high school, tertiary students, school leavers, young adults, youth leaders and young professionals interested in advocating for Integrity and Anti-Corruption in their schools, communities, sports groups, social web networks etc.

Friday, 28 May 2021

My self-journey into the challenging world

 Paulini Ledua 

One of our dynamic Youths for Integrity Leaders, Paulini Ledua, recounts her upbringing and her current youthful self-journey to adulthood. A touching story of finding one’s self identity and striving for integrity in a challenging world. Paulini talks about her journey with YFI and says, "If you don't have integrity, you have nothing. You can't buy it. You can have all the money in the world, but if you are not a moral and ethical person, you really have nothing.”

Growing up in a family full of boys was not easy as I had no one to talk to about things that was happening around me. But the big advantage was that they were all a big help to mom and dad when it came to looking after me - whenever I was sick - and also I made myself a small sister/small brother (lol)!!

I had a complicated childhood which made me stop trusting others sometimes  but as I grew up, I finally found people that I could trust and I managed to open up to my parents and siblings. In my teen years and being raised up by strict parents, it seemed quite unfair for me sometimes but I was glad they kept me away from temptations of this world.

Even though there were brothers, they made sure I was fine as most of the time; I needed all of their attention due to medical reasons. Dad and Mom were always concerned about my future as the boys would be okay without them but not me. Reaching high school, I managed to get good grades and yes I was tempted mostly by my school friends and Mr Headache was my best friend every time before exams but it never stopped me from making my parents proud.

When I reached tertiary, I finally saw how the city operated and to be honest I was so scared that I used to ask one of my cousins or my dad to drop me to school (FNU Nabua) while I did Foundation in Science and yes waking up early mornings wasn't easy but I had to, so that I could finish my studies and make sure that my dad's money wasn't being wasted as I was a private student not on a scholarship. Traveling everyday was a huge change as my primary years and secondary years were just half an hours walk from home and thus it took me a while to adapt but I gradually did.

Reaching the second trimester of my study, Dad started to get sick but  with God's continuous support and blessings I did well and got to finish the two trimesters well and  had time to spend with him before his last days. I then applied for Bachelor's of Nursing that same year (2017) after getting my results and yes a week after Dad's passing I got my Offer Letter from the University. It was heart breaking as Dad had worked hard to support me study and I only wished he was there to receive the news but God had plans for him thus I was just glad that I made Mom & Dad proud even though we had a rough year.

Continuing my studies in Tamavua was a challenging one but Mom made sure everything was carried out well and even though we didn't have enough, she still managed to take good care of us. For the three years of studying, Mom was both the (Mom and Dad ) of the family and i was more close to her in those years and yes I missed Dad in those years and all I could wish for was to finish my studies well, start work and pay back Mom for all that she and Dad had given me. Some nights in the dorm, I used to cry cause of feeling home-sick and most of the time wishing Dad would pay me a visit as he always did it whenever I went to my relatives for sleepovers or weekends but I had to accept reality and just study hard.

Two years passed, and I finally accepted that Dad was gone and yes my relationship with Mom was a bit of 'Tom & Jerry' as I tended to drive her crazy and vice versa but one thing that didn't change was her checking up on me everyday and I always prayed that I finished  study quickly and gave Mom the best vacation she could ever get so that made me push myself further to study hard. 

Almost to the end of the year, a cousin of mine introduced me and my younger brother to a workshop that was carried out for youths and we managed to join it which is called " Youths for Integrity" and yes it was a good choice that we made.

We learned a lot from that leadership group and yes Dr V was like a Dad to all of us youths that had joined and Integrity was a Big Word with a huge meaning and i would always carry a quote with me all the time and it goes by "If you don't have integrity, you have nothing. You can't buy it. You can have all the money in the world, but if you are not a moral and ethical person, you really have nothing.

 A year passed, and I managed to reach my last year of studying. I was so happy whenever our results would come out as I would always call mom to show her my progress and seeing a smile from her meant a lot. I always felt like jumping up and down whenever she smiled and yes it was a great start to the end of my tertiary life. The year was full of challenges as well due to COVID-19 but I managed to get through. Mom started to get sick again in the middle of the year and most of the time I would cry in my sleep as I would be worried about her but I was almost there so just had to be strong and keep pushing forward.

Most of the time, whenever I had a patient die, i would always get emotional and teary eyed forgetting that I was in the hospital. Sometimes I think of Dad when I see an older men dying or Mom whenever I see a lady lying in her bed in pain. I would try my best to hold my tears but instead tears would roll down my cheeks and next minute I'm in a room crying and trying to stop at the same time. Seeing patients struggle on their beds always makes me sad but yes I always try my best to help them and provide them the best care they can get.

I don't know why but I had financial problems when it was almost to the end of my attachments in the hospital and peri urban attachments but Mom always hugged me every time and told me "It's ok, don't think about it too much, just focus on your attachment," and yes it wasn't easy as I had been having panic attacks, so every time I went through stressful days i would just stop everything and breathe slowly and just think of Mom.

She would always give the best hugs and I would always be a big baby whenever I went home.

My last week of attachment, was one of the worst days of my life as my stuffs were stolen during my shift and it was also my last time seeing mom when she came over to hug me and also for me to give her something (she was scared I would get another panic attack, that she hugged me so hard while I greeted her in the taxi) but I held my tears back cause if I didn't, I would be going back to the ward with teary eyes but little did I know, it was my last goodbye.

Going back to the dormitory with a headache and tiredness, I thought of making something for myself for dinner and I had to ask Mom about the recipe. Sitting down, sipping my tea, it was awkward to me that Mom didn't call as she always called in the morning and evening. So, instead of waiting for her call, I called her and to my surprise it wasn't her answering but my uncle and I was feeling lost as to why she wasn't answering the phone. I asked for Mom and all I got was silence from my uncle and then he passed the phone to my aunty and all she said was, "Can you come by taxi to us?"

Hearing that made me worry and wonder if Mom was admitted again. Leaving all my tea stuffs, I got my room key and ran out of my room to get to the road, on my way to get a taxi (running up our longest driveway) my aunty called again and she told me that Mom had passed away.

I cried standing in the middle of the road and I almost fell down as I couldn't think straight and couldn't stop crying. I was a bit lost at that time and wondered how she could leave me like that. I didn't have my roomie around as it was on a Friday evening and the only people I could find was my best friends. I called them and cried like a baby while they were making their way to the campus car park. I seriously looked like a baby crying that night but still couldn't believe she also left me alone with the boys. Seeing her lying in her death bed made me lose hope to finish  tertiary but i had to be strong to push  my younger brother to finish his exam even though I felt like running away to a quiet place to shout "Why, God?"

Saying our goodbyes to her a week before my exams was not easy and all I could think of "I can't do it anymore" even though I smiled at everyone, I was crying my heart out inside and felt like drowning in the deep ocean. I couldn't stay at home after the funeral as I would keep crying in my sleep so staying at the dormitory was my escape from missing Mom at home. Weeks went by then I realized that God had plans set forth for us and that Mom had done all her best to raise us well and it was her time to go, so I had to stop asking "Why God?” and just thank God for her time with us.

Finally, exams came by and I managed to do it, with both my parents on my thoughts. Home was quiet, and the atmosphere was different but yes I had to move on and seeing all her clothes hanging in my room got me in tears everyday but life was such that I had to keep moving forward even though it was the hardest thing to do. Graduation day came by and as much as I was so happy that day, I missed both Mom and Dad and only wished they were there with me to receive my Certificate.

To conclude, God knows what's best for us and even though I lost both parent's at a young age, I'm still thankful for their time, and all the things about life they had taught me and my brothers. I'm now seeing what Mom has always been talking about and that is God is Good and he looks after his people no matter what. He may be late in blessing you but He always chooses the right time.

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

A legacy of faith

Rusula Adikoila Cavalevu

Hi YFI and readers of this blog, first off I want to say that I am encouraged and excited by those of you who already wrote amazing stories in this platform. It is a great source of inspiration to all of us.

I wanted to share a brief story that touched my heart during this pandemic. It is about a 70 year old woman. The woman and her daughter moved into a flat beside mine last month. The daughter works as a security officer and her mother most of the time stayed home by herself.

Last two weeks in the middle of the night, I heard moaning and I thought that I had a bad dream, but No! It's the lady next door calling for help with emotional soft voice, "Lewa kere veivuke". 

I ran out and heard that it was her. I opened the door and saw her lying on the floor. She called to me, “Lewa please help me.

I moved the wheelchair and lifted her and got her from the room to their sitting room. I asked her what she wanted. She said she fell off her bed as she tried to take her tablet which she coudn't reach.

Am in pain lewa,” she said.

I asked, “Where's your daughter?”

“She sent me a message that she slept over at her friend's place and will come home after her shift 12 o'clock tomorrow.

I was thinking that if she's my mother I will not leave her like that. I can see the pain she's been through seeing her swollen leg and severe headache.

After she took her tablet she asked me if I can come and help her get to the shower the next day as she feels weak.

I agreed telling her, “If you need anything just call me on my phone. I will see you tomorrow morning and before I go, please can i pray for us?”  

She said yes.

After the prayer I say goodbye and came back home.

Next morning after my devotion I prepared pancakes with jam and took it to her.

When I called her aunty she responded that she woke up already.

I boiled the hot water and took it to her bathroom, After her shower, we sat in the couch in the living room and changed her dressing on her wound.

I prepared her breakfast by 9 o'clock and we chatted until 11am.

She shared that she was so thankful that I was there when she needed help.

Her daughter came about 12:15pm and  she saw her sitting in the living room watching TV looking happy. She came to me thanking me for what i did when she's not around and I told her, “You have to remember they will leave us one day while we still have the chance to see them, we give them our best protection, stay beside them in moments of suffering, loving and caring for them as they are our source of blessing.

From that day till today she came back home straight after work and she really changed the way she treats her mom.

In closing, we will be rewarded for every good deed, for every person we encourage, for every act of kindness.

We are building a legacy of faith.


Tuesday, 25 May 2021

My spiritual journey..God is Good and He is Always There for Us..

 Sefanaia Kau bares his soul and testifies to the goodness of the Risen Christ…

Sefa (3rd from r-back) is pictured with YFIs

When I was younger, I was a promising young soul to my family, as I was good both in academic work and in athletics. Everything was a smooth sail till I reached high school

My years in high school was filled with new things I has never experienced, take it from someone who went to a primary school – 5 mins drive away from his house. The temptations and excitement of this new world was a lot for me to handle and it kind of ruined me, not blaming people around me but the lack of strength and power to take control of my life made it as so, I flowed with any wave that swept my way, I did drugs at a young age, had my first drink at the age 14, for my age group back then it was a big achievement that deserves a medal if you drank at a very young age, surprisingly it is still a big thing to boast about now in today's generation if you drink or smoke at a young age, the younger the age the bigger the man you are.

So it went on like that to the point I hurt my family in so many ways, my father and mother felt they failed to protect me from the world and my brothers were hard towards me to make me stop.

I took all that as a sign that they didn't love me, they did the best they could to toughen me up and break me from the binding spell that held me hostage in the temptations of the world, while all this stuffs happened, I moved out from my family at the age 16 and bunked in with some friends, thou all the tension between me and my brothers grew my parents remained neutral, and my sister always stuck by my side.

For a few weeks I stayed with my friends, their families were very welcoming and caring as always. I finally came home after my father constantly visited my friends place for me.  Things were calm when I returned, my parents both made sure the atmosphere at home was good enough for me to return, I went back to school finished year 11, and than 2017 came where I decided I didn't wanna attend school no more, because of the expectations I knew my followers had for me, I started becoming a problem again for my family, since I had a moment of fame that went too far up my head and this was my undoing, letting it go to my head !

I calmed down a bit when my dad got sick, I started caring again about my parents concerns, but it was a bit too late, my dad passed the same year on October 14 which I tattooed on my arm! I hated my dad for leaving too early, I also convinced myself I was the reason he passed away, most of my relatives told me to my face that I was the reason my father died and this broke me even more, my mother and siblings tried to hold on to what was left of me but I just kept falling deeper into my sadness, I took time out and went to stay at some trusted relatives place just so I can mend myself again but the pain was too much I thought about suicide so much at times, but then finally it hit me, my family are still here, my mother, my sister and my brothers, all of them still care and love me, and I didn't wanna hurt them anymore than I already did, so I went home after jumping from aunty to uncle to aunty trying to find peace and my father! Mind you it took me 2 years to get some peace from my dad’s passing.

 After 2 years of struggle and mountain I decided to go back to School and finish my education in high school so I can move on to tertiary and get a better job so I can care for my mother and siblings the way they did for me! I finished high school last year 2019-2020. Last year was also the hardest year in my 20 years of being alive on this earth, it was the year my mother passed away, my mom had been admitted to the hospital early October last year and I stayed with her in the hospital, skipped school,  sleeping on a wooden bench beside her bed, I even slept on the floor beside her bed. She got discharged from the hospital on the day of her 55th Birthday and we celebrated it at home with the whole family, after that we all agreed for her to stay at her sister’s place till she is fit enough to return since everyone at home was either working or still studying! 6th November 2020 we had a fundraiser dinner for a Youth Group I joined back in 2019, called Youths For Integrity.

That day I didn't go to school so I can go for practice, mom had come home for a visit,  that day we had a small argument about why I didn't go to school, I told her it was alright, it's just a one time thing, as always, after an argument we always sit and laugh at each other’s faces, and think of how stupid the argument was, everything was good between us, we had a relationship that is both weird and amazing, no matter how bad the exchange of words may be, we always sit together after that and just laugh, ask for forgiveness than eat a lot of food!

That same day we went to town, she got me a new phone and dealt with other family matters concerning all of us siblings, that day I told her to wait for me to get a job and I will buy her a big wardrobe and a new shelves and cabinets for her kitchen,

I told her I would be the first to take her abroad for vacation, anywhere she wanted to go, we parted ways in town, I went for practice and then I got ready for the fundraiser dinner for the YFI's that afternoon. Everything went well, we performed the final item, everyone was filled with energy after all the items, it was all joy and laughter.

I came up to my table to sit down next to my two best friends, Frances and Neville, and Neville turned to me and said my sister had been calling, I saw the amount of miss calls, I went ahead and called her back, as soon as she answered i heard someone crying, i knew instantly something was wrong, I begged her to tell me why were they crying, then after at least 7mins into the call, she told me in a low crying voice that mom had passed away and that none of us was there with her when she left; only the 3 men that took her to the hospital stood by her while the doctors tried to revive my mother. It broke my heart knowing the fact that she had to go without any of us around to send her on her way. I cried so much that same afternoon,  the fundraiser dinner had just come to its finale and all I can think about is my mother, I went up to the venue, grabbed my stuffs and my friends and wanted to leave asap, a few of the youths accompanied me, I didn't wanna tell them what happened, as I didn't wanna spoil their night, so we all exchanged goodbyes and I went on my way with my 3 friends Neville, Frances and Gayle dropping me off at the taxi area, I came home and cried alone in the house for hours, I remember sitting next to my cousin and my sister in law trying to hold back my tears while they thought I didn't know about moms passing, I also didn't wanna be the one to tell them that mom passed, we exchanged words and held in our tears, remained strong for each other!

We buried our mother after a few days and it was still the worst day of my life. I was had only a few weeks to prepare for my final exam for year 13. It was honestly a challenge, my mind and soul were not focused,  I tried my very best, I prayed about my exams, I missed my mom, and then with God’s Grace the results finally came out a few months later, it was a pass.

 It didn't get me a scholarship, but still I managed to pass, from that day till now, I have learned to put my complete trust in God, it was by God's grace I passed my exam, I decided to go back to Church - the Church I grew up in, and honestly going to Church everyday made me feel close to my mom, I could feel my mom’s presence and I felt Gods love.

 I have tried to commit whatever little spare time I have, to try and do God’s work, in return with the Hope's I get to change a life and save a soul! It is a testimony I will tell people all the time.

 I joined USP as a private student, my big brother in the village has managed to pay for my semester 1 fees while managing his family of 8, no scholarship means no allowance, yet surprisingly I manage to find my way to school and Church every week, even when we had almost nothing, my God is so amazing. He is truly a provider. I have witnessed it and I will always do my best to live by the Lord.

Mom’s siblings have stepped in to help us. Dad’s family have stepped in to help us, the Church has always been helping us till date, my friends have also been helping me so much lately - all this help I know for a sure fact is made possible by God’s Grace and the goodness in people!

I know I never really talked much about the YFI's, but know that I am grateful, because of them, I met a lot of beautiful souls.

My story has jumped from left to right, but I will say this still, life may give you mountains that looks impossible to overcome, trust that God will give you wings to fly and people around you will either be your boost over your mountains or they will be the anchor that keeps you held down.

Trust in God

Finally I want to leave you with a memory verse to Bless Your Life. I have found it very inspiring in my life's journey.

Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you declares the lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.


Monday, 24 May 2021

I had to tell myself – "There's a light at the end of the tunnel, Hold on and Press On"

 by Sakeo Moce

Sakeo (l) pictured with colleagues

The beginning of the year 2021 has brought a mixed bundle of emotions, particularly with joy and sadness. Joy in the sense that Fiji has welcomed a new year with zero cases of COVID-19 community transmission and sad in the sense that Fiji was yet again devastated by tropical depressions and TC Ana which ravaged Fiji all at once in February 2021 just one month past category 5 TC Yasa which struck Fiji on the 18th December 2020.

Fast forward to April 2021, just like other Fijians, I again felt a bit sad, disappointed, angry, anxious and depressed to learn that the invisible monster (virus) has successfully breached the different layers of protection that our nation has put right at the international border ever since March 2020.

I was having this emotion because as a Public Health professional, someone who is trained in Disease Prevention and Control, I understand clearly the impact of this breach and the implication of a confirmed case that has a travel history of attending a funeral with other 500 individuals before being detected under the existing Public Health COVID-19 surveillance radar. I knew that there would be restrictions and everyone would be forced to adapt to the new normal of wearing masks, practice social distancing and avoid unnecessary movements. I knew I would not be able to go to work and class as usual. I knew I would have to operate from home with minimum office resources and in a very homely environment. I knew I would not be able to go to church, meet friends and relatives. On top of this, I knew I would not be able to visit my parents and my siblings at Vatukoula until Fiji is COVID-19 contained. I also knew that there would be a lot of Fijians who will be also experiencing the same emotions and feelings I'm going through or perhaps even more extreme than I do and everyone would react and respond to it differently.

24th May 2021, as I finally sat down and picked up my laptop to start typing and just breathe and reflect on my personal experiences during this COVID-19 pandemic, I noted that Fiji has now managed to go through at least one month of COVID-19 restriction. Staying at home seems to be normal again for me and was a bit boring again. Fortunately, I had a very good support group whom I interact with daily, either face to face or virtually. This support group is my friends whom I've now considered close friends because they are also professionals and they can also provide psychosocial support and our Talanoa forum is always considered a safe space. This combined with the support I got from calling the Lifeline Fiji just to anonymously engage in a confidential Talanoa with a Crisis Intervention Officer, reading the word of God, and praying has been a great coping mechanism for me to cope with the change in the environment. Each day, I have been reminded that nothing is ever permanent. 

Sakeo giving us the 'Wakanda' look! "Always be positive- There is a light at the end of the tunnel."

Things will get better and there's a light at the end of the tunnel. The more I think about it, the more I wanted to urge fellow Fijians to follow the instructions from the authorities especially from Dr. Fong, and am longing for everyone to be united and do our part to conquer this COVID-19 monster. The sooner we conquer it the sooner we will get back to normal. That will be the end of the tunnel for us all.


Friday, 21 May 2021

Insights on my First-Year Teaching Experience: Integrity in Serving Children

By Maria Yavala

My first year of teaching was quite a challenging experience, like being thrown down a steep cliff!  I eventually overcame those challenges. I am sharing this story in the hope that other youths can learn from it – that sometimes you embark on a new job and you feel so nervous. But afterwards, you realise that the fear was all in your mind and that praying and getting help from your peers and colleagues are important.

Being part of the Youths for Integrity has helped me to learn new skills in photography, health foods, film making. These experiences are meant to help you to be positive in dealing with challenging situations!

I had an interview at one of the private pre-schools here in Suva. This  was an inclusive school which meant that they also enrolled children with special needs. I asked them when they’d let us know of the successful applicant and they said they would make contact on Friday. Friday came and and I was disheartened that I didn't receive any phone call.

Weeks went by! I kept praying asking God to help me get a job so I could help out financially at home with my parents since I am the eldest of seven children. I had to make a difference and be a role model to my siblings.

As I was sitting watching my siblings go to catch the school bus, my phone rang.  It was from the pre-school where I had been interviewed. They asked if I could start right away.

Time came when I was  in front of the pre school gate. The school manager told me the class I would be taking and she also informed me that I would be assisting one of the teachers. There are 4 classrooms consist of sunshine babies from 0 -1 and there's the sunshine class consisting of 1 to 3 year olds and the paradise class aged 4 to 6. The star class had children with special needs.

So I was assigned to be in the paradise class as an assistant teacher helping an experienced teacher.

I witnessed how some children are still transitioning from home to school and it is hard for some as they tend to cry whenever their parents leave.

The routine of the school was simple; when the children arrive we give them some activities to keep them occupied and at 9.00am we start with our morning devotion and then some colourings to do at 10 o'clock and then their morning tea (recess). After that we do circle time in which we have sing-along followed by outdoor activities and then lunch. The half day children are taken to freshen up before their parents come to pick them up. The full day students have their shower and nap time around 3.00pm. They get ready to to have their afternoon tea and wait for their pick-up.

It was exciting for me to go to school seeing different multiracial students  and trying to win over their trust so they can be comfortable with me.

I was also asked to handle sunshine class (1-3) since I was under probation. The board wanted to see how I could handle them as well as changing diapers, potty training and socialising.

It has been a great learning experience.

I encourage our youths to have a positive attitude and to pray whenever they face challenges. Be sociable and learn to interact and learn from your colleagues.

Pacific-based ‘Youths for Integrity’ Network Choose Whistleblowing Vice Chancellor as “Pacific Integrity Champion 2021”

  Authored by Grace Konrote, Shalom Tehillati, Maria Yavala and Samu Walosio on behalf of YOUTHS FOR INTEGRITY FIJI. Professor Pal Ahluwalia...