Tuesday, September 16, 2008


TALIKING to a school principal is never easy, especially when some have threatening eyes and an uninviting look that make you just want to crawl under the nearest table.

But 57-year old Unaisi Talolo Sitaba Lekenaua is a something quite different altogether. Entering her office at Laucala Bay Secondary one can almost feel the warmth and friendliness radiating from this very vocal woman.

Some people think it is easy to get a Masters degree in Commerce but for Unaisi the event was a double celebration as her graduation last Friday also fell on her birthday.

Born and bred in Keteira Village on Moala in Lau, Unaisi grew up an only child to Mosese Saula Sitaba and Alumita Lomoci. She comes from a family of teachers. Many of her cousins have joined the same profession.

"My uncle Joni Ledua was a headmaster and when I was five years old, I always wanted to be like him, a teacher," she said. "My uncle discouraged me frombeing a teacher because of how badly paid teachers were. "Nearly all of my cousins are teachers and it sort of runs in the family.
"I attended primary school at Uciwai District from Class One to Six and finished my primary education at Draiba Fijian.

"Another uncle was a policeman at Nasova and he brought me to live with him in Suva. "I continued my secondary school at DAV Girls College but when I was in Form Four, I failed Fiji Junior Certificate. "My father came from Moala to take me back to the village but I wanted to continue my education."

In 1968, the University of the South Pacific opened and her father's last wish before he died that year was for her to study teaching at USP. Her father's words remained with her throughout and although she seemed like a lost child after his death, Unaisi was determined to make the most of life.

Given a second chance, Unaisi passed FJC at Ballantine Memorial in 1969 and was one of the first students to sit the New Zealand School Certificate at the school. "When my father died, I lost hope in school and I didn't believe in God. My father was good friends with the principal for Ballantine and when she saw what I was like she told me to work hard.

"I always wanted to be a teacher and I had to work hard to live my dream and fulfill my father's wishes.
"I then went to Ratu Sukuna Memorial to complete Form Six. I failed my University Entrance Exam and repeated Form Six in 1971 and passed." She was a prefect then and during assembly USP representatives came looking for trained teachers.

This was the opportunity she sought and was accepted at USP that same year to study Home Economics. Being carefree and young, Unaisi passed all her units except for Home Economics and decided to look for a school to teach.

"In 1972, I was a licensed teacher at Suva Sangam but I still wanted to complete my education at USP. "I changed my majors to English and Social Science and graduated with a diploma in Education in 1975. "My first posting was to Dreketi High in Macuata and it was there I met my husband Kavaia Lekenaua. "I spent 10 years in Dreketi before I came to Suva in 1986 to complete my degree."

The mother of six was principal at Savusavu Secondary and in 1999, she was the senior education officer for secondary schools in the northern Cakaudrove, Bua and Macuata districts.
She became principal of the Laucala Bay in 2007.

After showing interest in continuing her education, she was awarded a Fijian Affairs Board scholarship under which she completed her postgraduate certificate in public administration in 2006.

In 2007, she went on to complete a postgraduate diploma in the same field. On Friday, she graduated with a Masters degree in Commerce majoring in public administration and management.

"I want to set a standard for my children - that anything is possible. I want to challenge my children to reach this level or higher. "My achievement is for my parents and since Sunday was father's Sunday, this is for mother and husband too.

"Teaching is rewarding and I thank to God - my anchor and strength." Unaisi is also a lay preacher and believes that hard work and determination have carried her through the obstacles of life.
Adpted from Fijitimes Online