A Samoan student with roots in Satupa’itea, Sataua, Fogasavai’i, Vaisala, Sa’anapu, Vaitele, Tiavea and Nu’uuli has created history for a top school in Fiji.
Century Upolu Vaai, the son of Reverend Dr. Upolu Luma and Tuamasaga Vaai has become the first Samoan to be named Dux of Suva Grammar School.
On top of the Dux honour, Century also collected the award for coming first in class level 12, first in Physics, first in Mathematics, first in Chemistry and first in English. His success has laid the platform nicely for his goal of becoming a Civil Engineer.
So what was the key to his success?
“My faith and my culture are my two strongest allies,” he says.
“My faith in God has made me stronger everyday with my studies. And my Samoan culture, which my parents have instilled in me, has opened my eyes to the importance of living life and understanding the world from a cultural perspective. I struggle to weave my faith and culture into my studies.”
Century was born in Samoa in 1999, which is the meaning of his name. He was born at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st century.
In other words, he was a child with roots in both centuries.
He started school at St. Edwards Primary School in Brisbane Australia, then continued at Samoa Primary School Vailele when the family moved to Samoa beginning of 2008 to work at Piula Theological College.
After Samoa Primary, he attended Samoa College Yr. 9.
He moved to Fiji at the beginning of 2014 when his father took up the position of Head of Theology and Ethics at the Pacific Theological College, Suva, Fiji.
Century started Yr. 10 at Suva Grammar School.
He told the Samoa Observer that he struggled with two things during the transition in Suva.
“Firstly I had to adapt to academic studies in Fiji, which is quite different from Samoa. As minister’s children, we accompany our parents in their ministry, and we have to support them all the way. It’s a family calling, us children included. Perhaps it’s a struggle but it’s also a blessing.”
Then there was the issue of school fees on top of other commitments.
“So I worked hard to make sure that I give back to my parents and to acknowledge their commitment.”
Today, all the sacrifice has been worth it.
“I thank God for all the gifts of life and strength during my studies. I owe God my life,” he said.
“I’d also like to thank my parents for their unwavering love. Despite the financial struggle of bringing us up in a different environment, they’ve made sure that their children get the best education.
“You know success is not about which school you attend. Rather it’s all about love of God and your parents together with total commitment to your studies. Love is the key to success.
“I want to extend a word of thanks to my family in Samoa and abroad for their prayers. I also acknowledge with appreciation the love of my new found family in Fiji, the Pacific Theological College, which has been a home for me for three years now.”
Century has one sister Jennifer Iemaima, and two brothers Luma and Logan.