Word has it that N.U.S.’s laudable achievement in having two home grown PhD candidates was marred by the choice of speaker to deliver the all-important students’ address at the graduation ceremony last week.
Two women did themselves and the university proud by becoming the first ever N.U.S PhD graduates. One was an international student from the Caribbean and the other was from the bosom of N.U.S. itself, one of its very own senior staff members.
According to those in the know, the local PhD recipient has had a singularly close association with the National University, first as a foundation N.U.S. student back in 1985, when the university was not much more than an idea and a dream with a budget of $5.00.
Since returning home after overseas studies, she has been a full time N.U.S. lecturer, and at one time Dean of the Faculty of Arts, among other foundational roles in the fledgling institution.
No offence to the lady from the Caribbean who was chosen to deliver the address on behalf of the students, but this was an occasion for the N.U.S. to show it understood what it’s much vaunted indigenization policy really meant.
It was an occasion to, as it were; show it has a soul where its mouth was. The graduation day audience was packed with parents, grandparents, relatives, well-wishers and friends. This was rural Samoa, the heartland come to pay homage to the flower of its youth and the future of the nation.
It also happens to be the home and repository of the Samoan language.
And what better way to show them that in spite of appearances, their university was indigenous as it claims and can speak to them in the only language they understood and love, their own. But alas, the powers that be gave in to petty tribalism, turned its back on its very own, and opted for someone who spoke the language of the urban elite only. She is not to blame for being put in such an invidious position. As Trump will have tweeted; NICE DAY RUINED, SAD, VERY SAD.
It’s no mean feat to teach at university full time and at the same time complete PhD studies in regulation time. But doing all that right here in Samoa?
No one has done it before, and quite likely, it will be a while before the feat is repeated. People go overseas from here for higher level studies to be where the places of study are, and to be away from where the distractions to academic studies abound; work, family, church, community, faalavelave, the whole caper. It’s just another fact of life, of being Samoan.
But going against the grain is hard, real hard, but it’s been shown to be doable and more, and is a story worth telling.
Everyone has a story to tell. And the higher the bench mark set, the more compelling the story. And so it is with this milestone in the life of the university with a starting budget of $5.00.
There is in there a story that is of relevance and interest to the students, to the parents, to the university itself and to government. It is a story that would have further embellished N.U.S.’s name and profile.
A story that would have added much to the occasion, but for a notable failure of vision and ambition.
Faanoanoa Papa’u Letofa
Observer of Times and Events