Severely Low Vision Fails To Deter Fulori’s Aspirations

“I want to be a role model and be that someone that could help them get the qualification they need and be independent in the future." - Fulori Cavukiliu.
13 Sep 2019 12:18
Severely Low Vision Fails To Deter Fulori’s Aspirations
Fulori Cavukiliu on her graduation day in March, 2018.

Fourteen years ago, Ono-i-Lau lass Fulori Cavukiliu, 28, was diagnosed with a rare illness which made her lose nearly 90 per cent of her eyesight.

The rare illness changed her whole life around as she prepared for the worst.

She had to allow a transition from her normal education routine to one where she was specially trained because of her disability.

There were moments where she had been ridiculed, laughed at and looked down on for her disability.

However, despite all odds, she stood tall and proved that even with severely low vision, one is still able to attain the impossible.

In 2018, the Ono-i-Lau native graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Geography from the University of the South Pacific (USP).

In two weeks, she will be graduating with her Postgraduate Certificate in Education at USP’s 2019 September graduation.

Ms Cavukiliu said though the journey has not been easy, she has learnt to face challenges with a game face on.

“The transition was difficult because I was not born with severely low vision but as a normal healthy baby,” Ms Cavukiliu said.

“Up until when I was 14 years old, I had a very bad headache that led to the condition I have today,” she said.

She had attended Suva Methodist Primary School for her primary education, Fiji School for the Blind and then to Dudley High School to complete secondary school.

In 2013, she began her journey at USP as a foundation student then later a first-year undergraduate student.

“When I started it was really hard to adjust to the system of learning that was offered here, especially trying to navigate through the big campus.

“When I began at university, my sister had to take me around the campus, to my classes and tutorials, she had to even read my notes and type my essays for me.

“When I attend tutorial classes I use to record the tutorials and when I get home, she types it for me.

“These were some of the challenges I faced when I began my learning journey here at USP.”


All these challenges turned around for the better with the opening of the Disability Resource Centre (DRC) at the university’s Laucala campus in 2013.

“When the DRC opened, they had been of great help for me and all the students living with disabilities here at USP.

“We have the facilities that have really helped us grow academically and we are grateful to the university for investing a lot in our resource centre.”

USP DRC manager Alfred Anthony said Fulori was one of the first 10 students that took advantage of the services of the resource centre when it opened during the second semester of 2013.

“Fulori is one of the pioneers of this resource centre,” Mr Anthony said.

“There was a growing need for the university to have such a centre and the number of students that have taken advantage of this service has grown over the years,” he said.

“We have a computer lab, washroom facilities, cooking facilities with a fully equipped kitchen, we have wheelchairs, TV and a printer.

“We also have a braille machine, sign language interpreters are brought in if there is a need, there is a screen reader software on our computers that helps visually impaired students to listen to their notes.”

He said the buddy programme has also contributed a lot to the students’ learning journey.

“Not many universities have the buddy model we have here. We are one of the few that are privileged to have it. These buddies are students of the university that have volunteered to help their fellow students at the DRC with their easy accessibility around the campus and also with their studies.

“It is a win-win situation, the DRC students get their assistance and the buddies get their valuable work experience.

He said Fulori, despite her disability is also a buddy who has volunteered her time to assist undergraduate students at the resource centre with their studies.

“The university has invested into this so that none of them will fall behind. We want equal access to education for everyone.”


Fulori Cavukiliu (sitting third from left) with her friends at the University of the South Pacific Disability Resource Centre on September 11, 2019. Photo: Inoke Rabonu

Fulori Cavukiliu (sitting third from left) with her friends at the University of the South Pacific Disability Resource Centre on September 11, 2019. Photo: Inoke Rabonu

Ms Cavukiliu said she had always wanted to become a teacher and she is working towards that.

“The inspiration of wanting to be in this profession came from being around my friends who are also living with some sort of disability,” she said

“I want to be a role model and be that someone that could help them get the qualification they need and be independent in the future.

“I love helping people, not only do I hope to teach after getting my postgraduate certificate, I also want to further my studies here at USP to get the maximum level of education that I can attain.”


She has advised youths living with disabilities to rise above the challenges they face daily and set standards for everyone in their communities.

“We need to push through despite the odds, it does not matter what the world thinks of you or how they see you. What’s more important is how you face challenges with the right attitude,” she said.

“Don’t let the words of others be a barrier to what you aim to achieve. Take it on as a challenge and prove your critics wrong.”


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