For The Love Of Language

Sawani lass Kelerayani Lesikinavosa, is one of the recent recipients of the iTaukei Trust Fund Board’s scholarships to pursue the Fijian Studies Post-Graduate programme at the University of South Pacific. The pleasantly spoken young lady has aspirations to further her academic aspirations in researching and teaching her native mother-tongue, the culture, norms and traditions.

The eldest of four children, the 24 year old spent her formative years in her village. Her parents are farmers and she is the first in her family to acquire a university degree. But her passion for learning anything Fijian, started from a young age. “I have a deep interest in Fijian Studies, that’s why I chose this field of study”, she says

Growing up on farm on the outskirts of Sawani, in the Naitasiri province, Kelerayani attended primary school in Sawani eventually attending secondary school at Adi Cakobau.

“All throughout primary and secondary school life, I excelled in the Fijian vernacular. I always scored high marks in it. I just had a natural knack for it, I didn’t have to really study for it. I think my interest in the subject helped propelled my achievements in the subject. And then when I reached university, I was happy to actually further my studies in the area”, she said.

Like many Fijian children growing up hearing stories of Fijian myths and legends, about the early Fijian settlers, the ancient deity and gods was a norm. She loved hearing these anecdotes being shared by family elder.

Today, in receiving this scholarship to further her Fijian Studies programme, she wants to extend her ambitions in furthering academic research into the Fijian language, the culture and traditions.

“My hope is to broaden this area to attract more of my peers to pursue this area of study. Because we have a rich heritage and we should embrace it with enlightenment and pride”, she said.

Her immediate goal is to ensure she achieves good grades so that she can progress towards a Masters degree. And she wants to use her new-found academic knowledge to research specifically in areas of Fijian language, customs and culture.

“I actually want to research my own village of Sawani, its traditional customs and norms, things that are unique to Sawani and if I can contribute to reviving it somehow, so that it can shared amongst our people”, she said.

Kelerayani pursued a Bachelor’s course in Education majoring in History and Fijian Studies. Undertaking this undergrad field of study, made her realise the vulnerability of language, as she sees the watering down of her Sawani dialect within her village.

“After studying Fijian Studies at the undergraduate level, it really compelled me to try and contribute in reviving our proper dialect again. I know, from my own experience we don’t speak our proper dialect anymore, and I’m passionate about reviving it”, she said.

We will all be cheering you on with that Kelerayani!

In closing Kelerayani adds “I would like to thank the iTaukei Trust Fund Board for believing in me and giving me this opportunity to further my passion to pursue my studies in Fijian Language. And I would like to challenge my peers to value and treasure our language, our culture and our values. For they are the essence of our being passed down from generations. We should all be proud of our long and vibrant heritage”.

Along with four other students, the iTaukei Trust Fund Board has awarded five scholarships to students to pursue their Post-Graduate studies in the Fijian Studies, a one-year programme, offered at the University of the South Pacific’s School of Pacific Arts, Communication and Education.