Wheelchair bound student on the way to achieving media dream

Tusiga using the outside ramps to get to his first class

Tusiga using the outside ramps at NUS Campus to get to his first class

Fa’aolo Utumapu-Utailesolo

APIA: FRIDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2014: Tusiga Peseta Taofiga has always been a popular and smart student of his former school, Amoa College.

Hails from the village of Pu’apu’a, Tusiga is a natural leader that in spite his disability of having Spinal Bipidahe, which means he only uses a wheelchair for mobility, was one of the school’s most reliable prefects for 2013.

On top of it had a very bright future, scoring 15 in his SSLC results, which means he automatically qualifies for the National University of Samoa’s Foundation programme on his own merits.

It’s no wonder that his teachers speak highly of him, pinpointing him a role model for other students with disabilities and students in general, as he lets no disability dictates his life and stops him from participating in his school, and community.

Some of you will remember Samoa Quality Broadcasting’s birthday song competition last year, where there was one group who’s skilled conductor was on the wheelchair, and that is testimony to Tusiga’s can do attitude.

Qualifying for the University foundation programme should have been a joyous occasion for Tusiga and his family, and it was.

However, concerns about the accessibility of the university and securing accessible accommodation continued to mar the happy occasion thus discouraging Tusiga and his family from joining his classmates during the first few weeks of university.

SENESE Inclusive Support Services has been providing support to Tusiga since 2012 and continues to support his quest to higher education.

So when we heard that he is still in Savaii while University has started, it prompts us into action.

Tusiga’s score of 15 in his SSLC exam, coupled with his willingness to continue onto university, was all the answer that SENESE and his family wanted to plead his case to the National University of Samoa.

Tusiga in his computer class

Tusiga in his computer class

This week, Tusiga is on the road to achieving his dream of being a media personality, as the National University of Samoa welcomed him in to the diploma in media and journalism programme.

The support that we have received from the University has been amazing, promising that they will do all they can to make the place accessible for him, and in the long run other potential students with disabilities.

Successfully Enrolling Tusiga at National University of Samoa was a victory towards disability advocacy.

Arguably, he is the first wheelchair user from Savaii to be studying at National University of Samoa.

Mahendra Mahimkar, Chairman of the board of SENESE says SENESE is delighted to have supported Tusiga throughout his journey.

“Tusiga deserves the chance to take up higher education. His SSLC result speaks for itself and SENESE is proud to continue our support for him through facilitating his access to higher education” says Mr Mahimkar with pride.

“We at SENESE believe that if a student has a dream career, and is intellectually able to pursue that career like Tusiga, the student shouldn’t settle for anything less, in spite the barriers.”

Tusiga’s family is very supportive of him and are working very closely with SENESE to ensure that he enjoys student life.

In spite the challenge of finding accessible accommodation for him, Tusiga has started classes and is looking forward to graduating at the end of next year with his Diploma in Media and Journalism.

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