While New Hebridians had laboured for expatriate investors in Efate, Santo, Malekula and other islands during the colonial period, not many of them had lived on to enjoy the benefits of their relationship with their former employers, except perhaps for the people of Pele Island and the Bourgeois Family.
The recent official opening of a new concrete classroom valued at over Vt10 million which was jointly opened by Chief Maserei of Piliura Village and Chief Maseimata at Tangoviwia Kindy and Primary School on Pele, is a perfect example of such a relationship between a former employer and former employee.
Chief Maserei says his people of Pele had first worked for Investor Bourgeois at “Coffee” in Port Vila.
They continued to work for his son after him and after Terry Bourgeois was born, he recalls that he was 13 when he first set foot on the beautiful seashore of Piliura.
That was how the relationship between Chief Maserei and Terry Bourgeois grew. In fact they were both ordained to their chiefly positions at Piliura at the same time.
Bourgeois’ father had been bestowed with a chiefly name of Manapanga, while his son was bestowed with a chiefly name of Maseimata.
“These chiefly names are bestowed in recognition of contributions to the community and they also represent responsibilities that can be contributed in the community”, explains Chief Maserei.
Category five Cyclone Pam in 2015 was the fiercest cyclone to hit Vanuatu.
Chief Maserei says like most schools in the islands clobbered by the cyclone, Tangovawia too was devastated. “I had a farm near the school and it pained me to see the Headmaster at the time take his books from the tent where the children went to school because he told me that inside was intolerable. I also felt his pain and decided there and then that I had to find another way to help our children and immediately Chief Maseimata’s name came to mind.
“I went to his office in Port Vila and his company had just renovated Malatia Primary School (in North Efate).
“He asked me if I had noticed it but I said ‘no’ even though I had seen it. He said, ‘Have you seen (how) Malatia (was renovated?’.
“I replied, ‘Yes I have seen it while our children at Tangovawia on Pele Island are still schooling in muddy tents”.
The Daily Post Newspaper also photographed the muddy tent and carried an article on the children’s plight.
That was how the chief had prompted Chief Maseimata to agree to fund the new classroom on Pele Island.
The solar powered concrete classroom has well over 10 bright bulbs inside and three bulbs on the verandah.
Chief Maserei acknowledges people of Nguna, Paunagisu and Pele for providing their manpower towards the school building project.
Everyone present also thanked Chief Maseimata for living up to his chiefly responsibility.
SIO Coordinator Jack Maete from the Ministry of Education acknowledged all the hard work involved on behalf of the Government.
Headmistress Betty Stephen thank Chief Maseimata and his team for his positive response to Chief Maserei’s request to fund the new classroom. “Thank you Chief Maseimata for recognising the urgent need of this school to have a new classroom as well as the need of the people of Pele as a whole”, she says.
“Thank you so much also to the foreman of the project Kalorong Henry and his team.”
In his speech, Chief Maseimata says the completion of the new classroom is a result of the “strong friendship” between the people of Pele Island and the Bourgeois Family.
“This classroom is a memorable landmark of the last 52 years when I first set foot on Piliura Beach when I was eight years old and (Chief) Maserei was five at the time.
“It is the result of a strong friendship between Chief Maserei’s family and the people of Piliura and Pele Island and the Bourgeois family.
“I trust that this building will improve the learning facilities and environment of the children of Tangovawia”.
But Chief Maseimata says the building alone cannot provide the success story of the school. It requires good interaction between teachers and students, excellent leadership of the school committee and its chairman and the support of all parents, to promote the high level of education at Tangovawia.
He says today education is not the same as in the past where a student finished school and went to work. “Today education does not stop. I am 60 years old but I am still learning’, Chief Maseimata says.
“Today there is so much challenge in the global community as well as in the local community”.
He is confident the new classroom will be used fully to prepare the students to meet the increasing challenges that surround them.
“May the young ones succeed through this school to become leaders of our community as well as the leaders of the country”, he says with confidence.
“I specifically wish to thank Bourgeois and Co. Ltd, my staff, Intraco Ltd, Autodis Ltd, TechAuto Ltd, builders of Foreman Kalo, Chief Maserei and members of the communities of Pele, Nguna and Paunagisu”.