Tongan scholars overseas succeeding despite Covid-19 restrictions

Tongan scholars overseas continue to succeed with their studies despite the obstacles faced due to COVID-19 restrictions.

About eighty Tongan students under the Australia Awards Scholarships are studying in Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu and Australia. Each has faced challenges, overcoming them with support and perseverance.

Students at USP, Laucala Campus in Suva have had to cope with inconsistent internet, extra assignments to replace class activities, and sharing laptops with their own children, which led to delayed communications with lecturers and courses coordinators. Nevertheless, they have adapted and found ways to succeed.

Lupe Vaka’uta who is studying for her Bachelor of Engineering at the USP Campus in Suva, has struggled to complete group assignments due to curfews and social distancing restrictions. But she is finding ways around these obstacles with the help of technology and her fellow students.

“Having friends helps me, personally, cope,” Lupe says. “We encourage each other to keep us motivated, because now that we no longer have classes to attend, we tend to relax a bit but we are mindful of due dates and tests and exams.”

Hehea Tukuafu Vaioleti juggles studying at the University of Adelaide with caring for her two young children with the help of her husband. She has faced challenges including slow internet connections, her laptop crashing prior to an assignment falling due, and her young children “distracting me every 5 minutes.”

“Regardless of the challenges faced through COVID-19, there has been an amazing support system,” says Hehea, who has received mentoring through the Australian Government’s Women’s Leadership Initiative, as well as support from the University of Adelaide including food vouchers, family support, internet, computer, and rent assistance.

“[This] has helped me realize that success requires collaboration and a positive mindset to achieve anything regardless of the situation.”

Other students also acknowledged the support from their families and the Australian Government for helping them overcome these challenges. Mele Inu Filise from the University of Technology, Sydney said COVID-19 was a lesson to be learned and that students should appreciate what they had, because they did not know what would happen tomorrow.

“We just have to have faith and persistence just as our studies.  There will never be a NO, there will always be a way for circumstances to work but we just have to sit, think, evaluate, and put forward a strategy,” Meleinu said.

“Almost nothing works on the first try, but we just have to keep reflecting and focus, then try again.”

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