Better known as Bulou Wainikiti, she turns 60 in December and has to retire under new civil servant rules. While she has fond memories of her teaching career, Bulou Wainikiti is sad that she's only had two years as the confirmed head teacher of Namalata Central School in Kadavu. She only wished she were young again, to go through the many exciting challenges she had just begun to experience.
Bulou Wainikiti hails from Tavuki Village in Kadavu. "I received mixed reactions from the locals when I was made head teacher of the school," she says. "For many it was unusual to have a woman as head of the school. Over the years, we've had only men as head teachers.
"But I saw the opportunity as a challenge and carried on with my work. I believe becoming who you are is not about gender but how faithful you can be to what you do and how well you can do it."
Before becoming head teacher, she had been the assistant head teacher from 1998 and acted as head teacher for five years from 2001. The school is a few metres walk from Vunisea, the main trading and government centre for Kadavu province. The school mostly caters for children within the government station and surrounding areas and nearby villages. Despite being head teacher for only a short time, Bulou Wainikiti is content with her contribution to the school over the years.
"I don't have any regrets at all even though being confirmed in this position for two years only. In fact I was able to do more while I was acting in the head teacher's position," she says. She is a firm believer that women can be just as successful as men.
"I believe career women can do more in the society because they are not just there to make a name for themselves, but to take into account issues that concern life and see that improvements are brought about," she said. "I don't consider myself as head of a school only, but a mother also to the students and my staff."
Though it's quite a task to look after rural schools, that has not dampened her spirit. She has been busy working with her staff to improve pupils' academic results and upgrade the school infrastructure. Students can walk properly around the school premises on footpaths and their heads are protected from the sun and rain. They now also have access to a proper water supply and toilets. Parents' support for the school, Bulou Wainikiti says, has also been encouraging.
"I've done my best in educating local children over the years. And being the school head for a short span of time, does not make a difference to me as I'm retiring.
"Age does make a difference to all career people. When you're young you have all the energy and vitality to do what is it you have to do with your career, but as you go along, you gain more experience and you become mature at it. "But sometimes your body tells you that you are not young anymore, but you posses a wealth of experience that people want. "I feel I still have a lot in me to offer to the school, but time tells me it is time to let go and let the young ones enjoy their career.
"In fact I wished I had retired earlier and concentrated on other matters, but I'm thankful I stayed on and contributed to the children's education. "I'm enjoying my teaching days now, with my students and staff and the challenges I face everyday." She teaches the lower classes in school, and finds it more interesting than teaching higher classes. She says in the lower classes children begin learning and it is there that she can monitor how well they could do in higher classes.
"The thing I love about teaching these young ones is knowing they can overcome barriers like learning to read for the first time. This will help them very much in going to the next class."
Bulou Wainikiti is also one of the longest serving school teachers in the school, having spent 20 years at the school, since 1987.
She has taught at only two schools in her teaching career, Namalata Central School and Tavuki District School. The schools are separated by a long stretch of hilly road. Namalata Central is about 15 to 20 minutes by car to Tavuki District School. After graduating from the Nasinu Teachers College in 1968, she was posted to Tavuki District. She spent her first three years of teaching at the school. She was then posted to Namalata Central for seven years and then back to Tavuki District School. She spent a few more years at Tavuki before receiving a posting again to Namalata in 1987. She has been at the school since.
Bulou Wainikiti has had to work her way through her career while raising a daughter single-handedly after her husband passed away when she was in her late twenties. "My husband passed away in 1977 after a short illness. I was 29 years old then. We had only one child, a daughter. I find those times a very hard one. I had my work to concentrate on and also raise my daughter as a single parent."
But she was always comforted at the thought of having relatives near her to help, especially in attending to her daughter as she worked. While she was grateful for their help, she made sure she didn't burden them with her daughter. She would spend every spare moment she had with her daughter. "My whole family was very supportive and that always encouraged me to be strong and enjoy life."
Bulou Wainikiti, was able to send her daughter to Suva for her secondary education at Adi Cakobau School. She graduated with a Masters Degree from the USP last year and is now based at the Office in Lautoka. For her retirement, Bulou Wainikiti, plans to work on her family property on the island and visit her daughter and grandchildren often.
Her advice to colleagues is: "Be faithful and honest to your calling and you will reap great rewards from the children you teach."