Laisenia Credits Father For University Graduation

When Kolinio Cagi Laisenia graduated from the University of the South Pacific (USP) last month, his late father was the first person that came to mind. “He believed in me
07 Oct 2017 11:00
Laisenia Credits Father For University Graduation
Kolinio Cagi Laisenia with his Diploma in Information Technology (IT Level 5) Photo: DEPTFO News

When Kolinio Cagi Laisenia graduated from the University of the South Pacific (USP) last month, his late father was the first person that came to mind.

“He believed in me and believed in what I can achieve,” Mr Laisenia said.

“When I was graduating that day – he was always on my mind.”

Thirty-four-year-old Mr Laisenia was stricken with juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at eight years has since confined him to a wheelchair.

“I was brought up with this sickness which caused me to be admitted in the hospital for one and a half years,” he said.

“When I got this disability, I was encouraged to go back to school by my doctor and my dad.”

Mr Laisenia described the reality of his two and a half years of study at USP with a physical disability.

“There were a lot challenges – sometimes I wanted to quit,” he said.

“I had challenges at home, challenges at school and in between.”

Mr Laisenia was very thankful to his wife of six years, Emele Marama, who worked full-time to help provide the necessary support for his studies. The couple also have three children.

“Studying sometimes was really stressful – I think the main challenge was transportation because I had to go by taxi not by bus,” he said.

“I’m thankful to my wife because at the same time she was working so she covered some of the costs.”

But Mr Laisenia, who now proudly boasts a Diploma in Information Technology Level 5, only takes the positives from his experiences at USP.

“I count it as a building process for me – when you let those challenges keep you down, you won’t achieve anything,” he said.

Mr Laisenia, who is the first member from his family to receive such an accreditation said his graduation day was an achievement he would never forget.

“For me as a person confined in a wheelchair, I was excited and nervous,” he said.

“But first of all I am really grateful – in our family, from my mother’s side and my father’s side, I think I’m the first one to be awarded at this level.

“Even myself, I didn’t know I was inspiring anyone – after the graduation some of the graduates they came to me and said: ‘hey, you inspired us’.”

For Mr Laisenia, his childhood provided many challenges. After coming out of hospital he went on to attend three different schools.

He eventually quit school due to the overwhelming challenges associated with his disability.

“Up to Form Four (Year 10) it was about mindset, because I was the only disabled person in the school so it was challenging,” he said.

“So when I reached Form Four, I quit school and I just stayed home – it was just too much of a challenge and my mindset was very small.”

Mr Laisenia’s late father was the biggest influence on his life, encouraging him to keep up with his studies.

“One person I take my hat off to is my dad – he was the one who was pushing me: ‘to go to school, go to school’,” he said.

After his Father sadly passed away in 2002, Mr Laisenia then looked towards the Spinal Injury Association.

“I always come here for my wheelchair repairs and maintenance – I met Joshko Wakaniyasi, he was the president at that time way back in 2006,” he said.

“I’m thankful for the Spinal Injury Association – because they’re the ones who really motivated me.”

Remarkably, after quitting school,  a passion for computing drove Mr Laisenia to pursue higher education in Information Technology (IT) years later.

“For me computing has always been an interest – I really love doing computing and wanted to learn every area of it,” he said.

“So firstly, I did my certificate and advanced certificate in computing at the New Zealand Pacific Training College.”

Mr Laisenia said that after being offered a computing job at Spinal Injury Association, he realised he wanted to go to university to build on his knowledge.

“The Spinal Injury Association offered me a job for two years –  they were running this programme – IDEA [Include Disability – Employ this Ability]. I was managing their survey form and analysing data,” he said.

“This was what motivated me to go back to school – I accepted that more education was what I needed.”

The way Mr Laisenia overcame his struggles should be an inspiration for all.

“Don’t let challenges keep you down when you try and do something.”

Mr Laisenia currently works part-time at the Spinal Injury Association as an IT Engineer and is hoping to pursue further studies at USP next year.

Edited by Rusiate Mataika



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