Kiwi Teacher reunites with former students after 19 years

Some of the former Tafea College students during their reunion with Mr Graham at Eton.

A New Zealand retired teacher has visited his former school in Vanuatu after almost two decades.

Mr Gary William Graham, now 80, was in the country last week and had the opportunity to meet a few of his former students before he left.

Accompanied by his wife and his children, Serah and Peter, they visited Tafea College where Mr Graham taught in 1999 to 2000 as a mathematics teacher.

During his term there, Mr Graham was one of the best maths teacher at the time and did a lot for the school by upgrading the college library and providing scholarship for two Tafea College students to do 5th Form at the Marlborough Boys College in New Zealand.

He also provided water bottles for students for clean drinking water.

Kelly Iopa, one of the recipients of the scholarship is now working with the Cooperative Department.

Iopa acknowledged his former maths teacher and his wife, Pauline who, back in New Zealand, taught him about the New Zealand way of life and adjusting to different school standards during his stay with them.

Mr Graham said that it was a pleasing chance to reconnect with his students from 1999 and 2000.

“It is great to be back in Vanuatu and especially Tanna to see the progress being made in all sorts of areas,” he said.

“It is especially pleasing to see so many of my students taking positive roles in developing their country.

“Tafea College continues to make progress and it was great to walk around the campus and remember the class of 2000.

“The library development is also enjoyable.

“It is wonderful to see that so many of those students took to heart the advice given in 2000 — set personal targets and work steadily with focus to achieve them.

“It gives me much pleasure to see how successful these former students of mine have become.”

Senior People’s Officer at the National Bank of Vanuatu (NBV) Shirley Loughman, who is a former student of Mr Graham described him as a passionate teacher not only in class but also outdoors.

“His home was always open to students after classes and during free hours,” she said.

“He treated all his students like his own kids and being one of his students, I felt free to seek his advice and help.

“His encouraging words and advice at the time gave me the hope and confidence that I will make it through Year 10, which I did”.

Mrs Loughman said she is very grateful to see him again after 19 years makes her really grateful, especially for everything he has done for her.

“Mr Graham has contributed in shaping me into who I am today,” she said.

“He taught me ‘To Dream dreams with Action’”.

She described seeing her teacher at the airport after 19 years to reuniting with a father figure after a long trip, saying she wished Mr Graham should have stayed a bit longer as they didn’t spend enough time to talk and share memories.

Loughman said even though they hosted a reunion party for Mr Graham and his family, she personally felt that it was still not enough for what he has done for her and the students of Tafea College.

Some of the former students were unable to make it to the reunion but sent their greetings. The Grahams said they will be back on another visit if possible.

Mr Graham also taught incumbent Internal Affairs Minister, Andrew Napuat at Tafea College in 1999.

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