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From Fiji Times Online (27 April 2012)

I treat them like my own

by Solomoni Biumaiono

VILIAME Katonivualiku never knew what was in store for him and his family when he was posted to Rotuma to teach at Rotuma High School.

This was two years ago. The Naduri, Macuata native felt right at home, among his fellow teachers, students and the island lifestyle.

After graduating from the then Fiji College of Advanced Education in Nasinu, Viliame had always been transferred to familiar places in and around the northern and the central divisions, teaching there.

Some years back, following the change in the retirement age for civil servants, Viliame found himself transferred to Rotuma ù he had to take his whole family with him.

Even though he is hundreds of miles away from home and familiar surroundings, Viliame took it all in his stride and has even become accustomed to life on Rotuma.

"It's just like Fiji, the weather but the land here is very fertile and food is abundant and agricultural produce is very cheap and the scenery is very beautiful but one thing though, tinned and processed food is very, very expensive," he says.

But he found the change in lifestyle has done him good and he is happy that he has managed to absorb and live the island life.

"The people are good to be around and they're very cultured and respectful and I found it easy to adapt as there was no language barrier.

"In fact most of the Rotumans I meet know how to speak Fijian fluently," Viliame says.

He teaches English and Social Science at Rotuma High and takes students from the junior forms right up to the seniors.

Serving in one of the isolated outposts for civil servants, Viliame is more determined to be the agent of profound and positive change for his students, especially on the relatively isolated island of Rotuma.

That is why, this year, after a lapse of 11 years, Viliame is part of a group of teachers from the school who want to expose their students to the competitive world of sports representation, by participating in this year's Coca-Cola Games.

"The aim set by the teachers is to allow students to come and compete with students here in Fiji so they can learn to know where they are when in comparison to other students.

"Where we hope they will learn to be competitive and also, this is the start of a new beginning for our students," Viliame says.

Viliame hopes his students will rise to the challenge and for him, this is reward enough.

And he believes he can make a positive difference in the lives of the students, as this was the creed that he swore to, after studying to become a teacher.

"Being a teacher is a joy because students change and no two students are the same.

"The challenge of getting to know them, understanding them and dealing with them, you will never come across a student twice.

"The style of teaching and administration changes and I believe you will never be bored once because you face different students and challenges each and every year," Viliame says.

And as a father, teaching has become a passion because he treats his students the way he likes to treat his six children.

But to civil servants like Viliame, being hundreds of miles away from home is no mean feat but they have allowed themselves to work towards the betterment of their charges.