Saturday, May 17, 2008


THERE is always a smile on Rosie Baleiwai's face when she talks about how she loves to take care and help children at the Early Intervention Centre at Hilton House in Suva.
The 37-year-old woman has been teaching at the centre for 13 years and does not regret the path she has chosen in life.
Rosie is an executive teacher for mainstream education at the centre.
Basically, she prepares children with special needs for the mainstream curriculum, hence her work is classed as special.
Born and bred in Suva, Rosie is originally from Vanuadina in Tokatoka, Tailevu.
Her father Jale Vatubua was a soldier while her mother Margaret Bucknell, of part-European decent, worked as a machinist at the Central Manufacturing Company which is now the British American Tobacco (Fiji) Limited at Nabua.
The youngest of two siblings, Rosie always had a soft spot for children.
"I was brought up in Suva, at Rewa Street, to be precise, and when I was young, I had always wanted to be a teacher in primary school," says Rosie.
"I love working with children and I was interested in reading and helping children.
"My parents were not that rich but we had the basics.
"They were in the low-income earners bracket which meant that life for us was a struggle.
"Fortunately, through my parents hard work, we were able to get a good education.
"They worked very hard to provide us with a good life.
"The thing that really inspired me to become a teacher was the fact that as a teacher we saw the children come to school with no skills and when they leave school, they had acquired skills which would help them be independent.
"That feeling is indescribable and it makes me feel happy to know that I helped make a difference in someone's life."
Rosie attended primary school at Veiuto before continuing at Suva Grammar School.
However in 1990, her father died and her mother was left to look after Rosie and her sister.
The following year, Rosie was able to further her education at West Lake College in New Zealand.
She returned to Fiji in 1992 and applied to the Fiji College of Advanced Education at Nasinu to become a teacher.
She had earlier applied to study at the Lautoka Teachers College but had to turn down the offer because her father was sick at that time.
"My dad didn't want me to live far so I turned down the offer to go to Lautoka. During my interview at FCAE, I told them that I had been accepted at LTC but had to turn down the offer.
Somehow, after that, my application went to LTC where I graduated in 1993. I was boarding at that time and it was a new experience for me.
"My first posting was to Navatusila District School at Nokonoko up the Sigatoka Valley in Navosa.
"It was a whole new experience for me especially when I had never been away from the city.
"I had to learn to cook my food using firewood and wash clothes outside.
"It was a learning experience for me but it was an enjoyable one as well."
From the salad bowl, Rosie returned to the city and spent one week at the Suva Special School in Namadi.
During that time, the headteacher of the centre, the late Adi Talatoka Kotobalavu, was looking for a young teacher and Rosie happened to fit the profile of a caring teacher.
She joined the centre in 1995 and has never regretted the path she took.
For her, teaching children with special needs at the centre has been challenging but she admits the patience involved in caring and teaching the children has been overwhelming.
"We are trained at teacher's college to teach the mainstream curriculum basically on the blackboard but when we are put in an environment such as the centre, it is a whole new world and a very different environment.
"However, when children from different backgrounds come together we help mould them and prepare them for the mainstream education to prepare them for the future.
"These children should be given the opportunity to learn. At the centre there are different expectations and different teaching methods involved.
"Children are very special and each of them learn differently.
"I usually have a class of nine children but the number of students varies through the week.
"However, I am very happy and I feel satisfied knowing that I can help these children."
The mother-of-four is an inspiration not only is the work she does a sign of her endless commitment and care for children but you can see the passion in her eyes when she expresses how passionate she is about the special children.
That, alone, is enough to make someone appreciate the role of special teachers in our society.
And in most cases, people such as Rosie happen to be the unsung heroes of our society.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online