PEOPLE OF 2020: Malaeulu Papali'i Reupena Rimoni
One of the longest-serving principals for Samoa College, Malaeulu Papali'i Reupena Rimoni, is a man who has made a huge difference in education. Many of his students have gone on to achieve great things in life and they will never forget his work.
For Malaeulu, that's exactly what gives him the greatest satisfaction about his work.
Malaeulu taught at Samoa College from 1987 to 2020. He started off as a teacher in 1987 and went on to become the Vice Principal in 1995 and later on the head of the prestigious college in 1998 until earlier this year when he stepped down.
Numerous students have come through the leadership of the St. Joseph’s College alumnus who is now successful in life and wants their children to come through the same path. It was a reward for Malaeulu to have been the Principal of Samoa College and to witness the success of his former students.
“I think for me, people say that it was the salary but I think for myself, the greatest satisfaction of being a teacher is seeing the success of your students,” he told the Samoa Observer in an interview.
“If you look at government ministries and those who are the C.E.Os, a few of them came through Samoa College while I was the Principal and that is very rewarding.
“As a teacher, we have to ensure that we have made an impact on their academic life and that Samoa College has had an impact as well.
“The greatest satisfaction as a teacher is to see your students succeed in life and I think that’s the main thing is to know that I can influence and change the lives of my students.”
Malaeulu revealed that the role was a challenge, especially being the head of one of the highest colleges in Samoa where high standards had already been established even before he started there.
“Being the principal of Samoa College is no easy task,” he said
“This is because of the country’s expectation of Samoa College as it is the top school and we had to work hard to maintain the standards of the college, not only to maintain it but to also lift it up to a higher standard.”
Despite the role being a challenge, Malaeulu had worked to the best of his abilities to maintain the college’s established standards.
“It was very challenging and you can’t just sit around,” he reiterated.
Most of the students of Samoa College are children of former students and every year, Mr Rimoni said that he is approached by many of his former students telling him that their children will also be attending the college.
“Most of the students at the school, their parents came through my classes and my leadership as well. Every year my old students come by wanting their children to attend Samoa College but there have been many changes,” he said.
Earlier in May, Mr Rimoni was officially sent off by the college after more than 30 years of service. It was all in his plans that he at some point, he would have to step down and focus on other commitments.
Although he is no longer working for the college, he is still attached running a few errands where he is needed.
“I guess not but I already had my mindset that once I reach this year, I had to sign off. The whole idea was to have more time spent with my family,” he said.
“I still do work for the work and I still help out where help is needed. But I think I needed this time for me and my family, I believe the opportunity should be given to others who are applicable and are capable of continuing on. There are people I have worked with for a while now and I believe they have the ability to continue the work now.
“But I’m always attached to the school, there are things that they need my help with and I go and help out.”
Mr Rimoni is probably the only principal who would mow the school lawn and help out with cleaning the school compound even though the school already have people who are paid to do the job. He believes that a principal should not always sit indoor but be involved in all activities of the school and to be amongst the students.
“My own philosophy is that you have to come down to a level and be able to work together with the students. The whole idea of a principal is not just to sit in his office and in his chair and make orders but to work together with the students and the teachers,” he added
“If you’re in a leadership role then be the leading example to the students and the teachers.
“Even up until now I still mow the lawn because no one knows how to operate the tractor and other small tasks for the college.
“I believe the responsibility doesn’t always apply within the office or the classroom but outside as well and ensuring that the students are in a clean and safe environment.”
Due to the lack and unavailability of resources, Mr Rimoni felt that he could have done more for the college if it weren’t for these obstacles, however, with what was available, he made sure to utilise it necessary for the benefit of the college.
“I think I could have done more and I wish I had the resources to do more but I can only work with what we had. Those were the challenges but I had liked to extend it further but we had to make the best out of what we had,” he said.
“If we had more money, we would have done numerous developments for the school but the only support we had was our parents, our ex-students and some companies who contributed a lot.”
A number of people have supported Malaeulu during his time as the principal and he is grateful for the support of the staff of Samoa College that he’s worked with, the principal’s association and also all the former and current students of Samoa College.
He is an alumnus of St Joseph’s College in 1979 where he went on in the following year to St Patricks College in Wellington. He studied at Massey University later on and then to the University of the South Pacific in Fiji.
After U.S.P, it was straight to teaching at Avele College in 1986 before he was transferred to Samoa College in 1987, and he has been with the college ever since until earlier this year when he stepped down as the head of the school. He had taught mainly Geography and a bit of Economics and holds a Bachelor’s degree of Arts in Geography, Economics and Administration.
When asked what he has been up to these days, the 59-year-old laughed and said that he is farmer owning his very own plantation and doesn’t have to work according to a schedule as he can go whenever he wants to run a family errand and to work at his plantation. He now has more time to spend with his wife and his three children.
“So now it’s more of relaxing, the pressure is done and being a principal is a lot of pressure so right now have more free time to serve and support my family and my church,” he said.