A 51 year old father of six and grandfather of four Tuioti Sakaria Taituave has a message to share with everyone especially young people.
Tuioti was among 200 graduates who celebrated his achievements at the National University of Samoa on Friday.
He graduated with a Master in Development Studies.
Development Studies looks into all development aspects both locally, regional and international.
It includes community development and organizational strengthening, gender planning and development, global environmental issues in Samoa, pre study development theory and practise, project and programme design and evaluation, public policies and researching in Samoa, climate change and other environmental issues so it’s basically the development of a country falls under the category of the scope of this course.
Tuioti said the programme was for a duration of two years, and out of 12 students in his class, he is the only one who graduated.
“There will be more Masters graduates next year. The first student who gained this qualification was a Caribbean girl who graduated in 2015 but I am the first Samoan with this achievement,” he said proudly.
“I am very proud of myself because despite my age and as a father, grandfather, a local preacher and all other matai commitments I have been able to complete this hard journey.”
The 51 year old has his workplace to thank for the giving him the chance to gain this qualification
“I am very thankful because I know that if I was working in the government or anywhere else I would not be able to complete my studies,” he said.
“There were a lot of A.C.E.O.’s and principal officers and other job officers in the government who couldn’t make it because of a lot of commitment within their work but I’m very thankful to our Director of A.D.R.A, Su’a Julia Wallwork and the staff that I have had time to study part time.
“There were a lot of flexibility in terms of the workplace plus my own commitment to work and apart from that I am a local preacher, a matai, a father and so there were so many things happening at once.
“There were also students who had duty travel so they needed to travel overseas and for that they couldn’t make it but I was the lucky one and it’s a balance between my workload here and the time that I spent on studying
“[And] also I cross credited some of my post graduate diploma in environmental science from USP.”
The new graduate said that environmental studies has always been an interest for him from when he was young.
“I’m working in development work and we are collaborating with development partners and all these projects are for the development of Samoa,” he said.
“So it’s part of the development of Samoa where we need to upskill and try to enhance our knowledge, skills and the experience based on the work that we are doing for the community.
Tuioti said he believed that with any success there are always challenges and for him finance was his biggest challenge.
“This is the first time I have paid for my own tuition and fees because the last four times when I went for my other qualifications, I had been were under scholarship, WHO Scholarships and Australian Scholarships,” he said.
“This is the first time I have actually spent money on my studies and in 2014 my son was also studying at NUS so we spent $3,000tala for one semester and that is a big sacrifice for our budget.
“My wife and I sacrificed other financial commitments so that we could pay for our fees.”
And this is not the end of studying for the graduate.
“I took the lead for my children to keep on studying, and I don’t think I’ll be able to do a PhD but I will be a mentor and I will lead by example for my children.
“I want to be a mentor for my children and tell them that studying is not hard if we commit ourselves to it and put interest into the study.”
He also said that his biggest motivation was when he failed to get a scholarship in 1984.
“When the people of the same age in 1984 went to the first year of N.U.S .I failed my university entrance and so I thought to myself, “How come these people are getting their scholarships and going overseas but I’m not, so I stayed back and worked for five years until I got my scholarship. I went to Fiji from 1990-1992 to study for a Diploma in Environmental Health and from there I had this vision to keep on studying,” he said.
In 1996-1997 I went to the University of Western Sydney in Hawkesbury and studied for a Bachelor of Environmental Health.
In 2003 I did a Post Graduate Diploma in Environmental Science; 2010 it was a Diploma in Community Services work in APTC and so this is my fifth qualification. I did it at the N.U.S. because of my commitment to my family and my church, he said.
“It’s like a hobby to me to keep on studying and someone said that “la little knowledge is dangerous knowledge,” meaning that the more you learn, the more you know so we just keep on studying.
“There are so many things that I am sure I don’t know at the moment so just I keep learning new things and keep moving on.”
He also spoke about how he was determined to striving and not to stop at anything.
“I came from a very poor family and I recall my father working hard labour intensive jobs in order for me to go to school at that time,” he said.
“I had a hard time when I failed my School Certificate and my UE but I worked hard in order to overcome those hardships.
“[And] for that I encourage any drop out students that the world does not end at that stage of life there is always a second chance for us so if you have a vision and the motivation and an open mindset instead of losing your intelligence then use your disciplined mindset that can help you grow and make you move forward.
“One of the motivational factors for me is to be an example for my children and a role model and I thought of trying to determine the career path of my children so I told them that nothing is impossible.
“I am proud of my achievements and I urge the teenage people especially the ones that have already got degrees to keep on going and aim higher and learn more.
“And also with the scope of my studies now it’s quite broad from Environmental Science to Social Science to Medical with some legal aspects and so it’s broad and I can fit in any of these workforces within Samoa.”
Tuioti is a Project Manager for Pacific American Climate Fund and a Project Manager for Habitat Build at the Adventist Disaster Relief Disaster (ADRA Samoa).
He hails from the villages of Falelima Savaii and Alafua and is married to Elaine Taituave with six children and four grandchildren.
He is a local preacher at the Methodist Church and a member of the Methodist Standing Committee.