From Alan & Jan in Suva (19 August 2012)
We have just returned from two weeks on Rotuma where we attended the 2nd annual Wilson Inia Day celebration at Rotuma High School as chief guests. This was our first visit to Rotuma since 2006 and it was interesting to see the changes that have taken place in the interim. (We had reservations on flights to Rotuma twice in the last six years, but both times the flights were cancelled.)
We were hosted by the Principal of Rotuma High School, Perry Gabriel, and his wife Siteri, who is head teacher of Malhaha Primary School. It was difficult to get around on the island, as fuel was in short supply because a boat had not come with fuel since May. As a result of the fuel shortage, water was only available in Malhaha from the general supply from 8-11am (to conserve fuel for the pump), and electricity was only on from 8-12am, 2-4pm, and 6-10pm. Other districts had similar restrictions. The shops were almost completely empty and travel was kept to a minimum. Fortunately many households (including the principal's) have water catchment tanks to supplement the supply. Two boats finally arrived with fuel and supplies on Tuesday, 14 August, and things returned to normal. However, Digicel is no longer providing Internet access, so we were out of touch during our stay.
We were delighted to see the changes that have taken place at the high school. The school grounds have been cleared of rubbish (resulting in a lot fewer flies and mosquitos) and buildings have been repaired and upgraded. For one hour each week, all the high school students participate in a cleanup of the school grounds and buildings, so everything is clean and tidy. The Wilson Inia Library is thriving and the air-conditioned IT lab, which now has 14 computers in working condition, is allowing students to learn computer skills. We just hope that before too long the high school will have a reliable Internet connection so that teachers and students will have access to all the information available there. There is a distance-learning connection at the IT lab that allows teachers to take courses originating in Fiji. The high school will begin offering Form 7 next year, and a new classroom to accommodate it will begin construction shortly.
Because the shops were out of stock, people had to rely on food grown on the island and fish from the sea. It was a lesson in how much better tasting and healthier these food items are than store-bought processed items. The fresh fish in particular were wonderful. We were pleased to see that many more kinds of vegetables are being grown and eaten than in previous visits: now we had cucumber, okra, long beans, and tomatoes as well as cabbage, pumpkin, and eggplant. Fruit was also abundant: oranges, various kinds of bananas, and sweet watermelons—even passion fruit!
The highlight of our visit was Wilson Inia Day, which was held at the high school on Thursday, 16 August. Besides a cadet passing-out parade and sports (rugby and netball), the event included a competition between the seven districts to raise funds for more computers so that each of the 25 students taking in IT classes can have access to one. The goal was to raise enough money to buy at least 10 more machines. Each district chose a charity queen from among their students. The candidates were brought in one-by-one on well-decorated floats with the donations from their district. The charity queen from the district that donated the most money was crowned Rotuma High School Charity Queen 2012. The winning district was Itu'ti'u and their charity queen, Miss Rogo Batavotavo (Form 5) is from Savlei. All together, F$22,180 was raised, which exceeded the target amounts by $7,180.