Education is the key to prosperity for families and for country,” says Natalie now in her third year as a graduate teaching assistant... There are no borders and no limits when it comes to education.”
Natalie Leitulagi Toevai does not like to be classed as a New Zealand born Samoan.
“I don’t like the label,” says the 23-year old graduate teaching assistant with the Auckland University.
“I didn’t know how to speak English when I first started school in New Zealand,” smiles the Miss Samoa New Zealand one of the nine contestants vying for the McDonald’s Miss Samoa crown 2017.
In Apia this week, Natalie’s resolve to return to teach in Samoa was cemented after a briefing by the Minister of Education, Sports and Culture Loau Keneti Sio .
At that briefing, the Minister called on the contestants with teaching qualifications or with the aspiration to take up teaching to help the Ministry with their shortage of teachers.
“It’s not a question of why but a question of when,” says Natalie.
“With or not to win the crown, it was always in my plan to return home to teach."
“But Dad (Togiai Manuavaia Siaosi Maulolo Toevai) was firm with his resolve that 'without the piece of paper' (degree) coming home to Samoa will have to wait."
“And mum (Mrs Siuli Toevai) was also absolute.”
But then the Miss Samoa New Zealand Pageant surfaced and Natalie saw the opportunity to use the platform to reinstate her passion to return home to Samoa to her parents on a bigger platform.
And without any surprises, education will be her platform in this week’s McDonald’s Miss Samoa Pageant.
“I am blessed to be one of the nine contestants. The Miss Samoa Pageant is the perfect platform to advocate for quality education nationwide."
“Education is the key to prosperity for families and for country,” says Natalie now in her third year as a graduate teaching assistant.
“There are no borders and no limits when it comes to education.”
She also acknowledges the leading and disciplinary faaSamoa role played by her parents to raise her and her younger sister.
“I am the eldest of two but was raised with my numerous cousins and Faasamoa was the crux of my upbringing with cultural traditions, values and beliefs providing a firm foundation of God at the forefront."
"We are fortunate to have our parents raising us the FaaSamoa way outside of Samoa."
“It shows that Home is where the heart is.” So whether she is successful with her campaign to be the next Miss Samoa, Natalie is coming home to teach and become an asset to her home.