The onset of Covid-19 in 2020 brought with it unexpected sacrifices for Eunice Niroa as she began her Master of Educational Studies. No sacrifices were more so than leaving her one-year-old daughter who was four by the time Eunice graduated and returned to Vanuatu. “The first semester was really hard. I had to accept the fact that I probably wouldn’t see her for a while but the University of Queensland had fantastic support systems in place.”
Eunice graduated in 2021 with a Master of Education and a major in diverse learning from the University of Queensland and through Australia Awards. After completing a Bachelor of Education in Fiji Eunice began working as a secondary school teacher and soon realised the vast learning styles and abilities often found in oversized classes. “I began to notice a lot of gaps in students learning, particularly reflected through their behaviour, and that there really wasn’t anything in place to test the child“.
Eunice identified various underlying factors that contributed towards misbehaviour in the classroom. ‘I think we often see a child misbehaving and just think they are being naughty but I started to question that’. Her desire to meet these students where they were led her to undertake a Master of Educational Studies majoring in diverse learning. An inclusive approach that considers all students have the right to access a full and engaging education on the same basis as their peers.
She hopes to see this learning pedagogy integrated at the curriculum level to expose educators within Vanuatu to what can be achieved when students are not labelled but instead encouraged. Eunice is now a senior secondary English teacher at Malapoa College and is working closely alongside the principal to implement a program that can be used to not only identify students who may require extra support but how these students can be taught in an inclusive environment.
“Culturally speaking, students do not like to be singled out and have their peers made aware of their learning difficulties. This is when they will shut down. Inclusive education acknowledges the diversity of learners whilst still teaching them collectively through proven methodologies”.
She wants to see more emphasis placed on the diversity of students as a way of gaining momentum for the education sector whilst contributing towards the future development of Vanuatu. Providing more students with a path to success inside and outside of the classroom. With her finger on the pulse of these academic innovations Eunice is a beacon for meaningful change in the education system that is shaping the leaders of tomorrow.