Spot­ted In

A PNG ed­u­ca­tor in Van­u­atu

Paradise - - Contents -

Born and raised in Pa­pua New Guinea, Rex Thomas Tan­dak is on a mis­sion to forge closer ties be­tween Pa­pau New Guinea and his adopted coun­try, Van­u­atu.

A for­mer teacher, public health pro­gram man­ager and now se­nior ed­u­ca­tion qual­ity as­sur­ance of­fi­cer, Tan­dak has lived in Van­u­atu since 1995.

“Twenty or so years ago, there was just a hand­ful of Pa­pua New Guineans liv­ing in Van­u­atu, mainly women who had mar­ried Ni-Van­u­atu,” he tells Par­adise.

“Now, the PNG com­mu­nity pop­u­la­tion has in­creased dras­ti­cally, through an in­crease in in­ter­mar­riages, PNG com­pa­nies es­tab­lish­ing them­selves in Port Vila, and bring­ing Pa­pua New Guineans to work here.”

He says his group was set up to pro­mote cul­tural, recre­ational, sport and ed­u­ca­tion links with PNG and to en­cour­age PNG in­vestors to come and in­vest in Van­u­atu.

Tan­dak came to Port Vila to fin­ish his Bach­e­lor of Ed­u­ca­tion at the Univer­sity of South Pa­cific’s Emalus Cam­pus, after win­ning a Ger­man schol­ar­ship, and grad­u­ated in 1997. He stayed on in Van­u­atu, teach­ing for 12 years at var­i­ous high schools in the cap­i­tal and across the coun­try.

He is a Sikin Koep tribesman in the Aiyale Val­ley, from Pina Vil­lage in Enga Prov­ince. After fin­ish­ing high school in Wabag Pro­vin­cial High School, he went to St Fidelis Col­lege in Madang, then to Bo­mana Holy Spirit Sem­i­nary with the in­ten­tion of be­com­ing a priest.

“That did not even­tu­ate, but it did build my char­ac­ter,” he says.

He left teach­ing to take up a post with the then

AusAid-funded pro­gram, TVET, an ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing project that taught young men and women the skills to gain jobs.

He then worked with a World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion funded project.

“I man­aged the Drinking Wa­ter Safety Plan (DWSP) pro­gram un­der the Public Health Depart­ment.”

In 2017, Tan­dak man­aged the trans­port pro­gram for the Pa­cific Mini Games, and then joined the Van­u­atu Qual­i­fi­ca­tion Au­thor­ity (VQA), which gives of­fi­cial recog­ni­tion to ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions.

His role in­volves do­ing pre-as­sess­ments of or­gan­i­sa­tions that want to reg­is­ter with the VQA.

“What’s at­trac­tive about Van­u­atu is that the peo­ple are easy to work with, ac­cess to lo­cal and na­tional lead­ers is quick and it’s a peace­ful coun­try. The slo­gan used here is ‘The Hap­pi­est Place on Earth’,” he says.

What makes Van­u­atu unique, he says, is that it was colonised by the French and English. “It’s the only coun­try in the South Pa­cific where the peo­ple speak French and English along with Bis­lama (cre­ole), which is an of­fi­cial lan­guage, and the first lan­guage for most Ni-Van­u­atu (Van­u­at­u­ans).”

Tan­dak’s spare time is spent with his chil­dren and fam­ily – as well as swim­ming, fish­ing, watch­ing rugby and foot­ball, as well as de­vel­op­ing the PNG-Van­u­atu Wan­tok Care As­so­ci­a­tion (PVWCA), a wel­fare or­gan­i­sa­tion that ob­tains do­na­tions from PNG or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­di­vid­u­als for Van­u­at­u­ans.

“Dur­ing the earthquake in South­ern High­lands Prov­ince in 2018, we did some fundrais­ing with the help of the Van­u­atu Credit Cor­po­ra­tion and sent the funds back to PNG.

“We are well over 100 mem­bers in Van­u­atu, but that will in­crease over the next 10–20 years,” he says.

“Ear­lier this year, we es­tab­lished a PNG Van­u­atu Wan­tok Care Foot­ball Club, and we have plans for a rugby league club as well.”

Rex Thomas Tan­dak … says there is an in­creased pres­ence of Pa­pua New Guineans in Van­u­atu.

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