Fifty-two-year-old Vatiri Tabuatolu Driu was hesitant going back to school at an advanced age, as she was not sure if she will be able to ‘fit in’ as well as cope with active learning. 

Life doesn’t always follow a straight line, and for Driu, she needed to make a bold move after realising that she required a permanent income to look after her nine children.

Previously, Driu worked part-time in restaurants before operating a food and juice stall at the Nadi Market. She knew that the food business was in-demand and growing, which led her to enrol in Certificate II in Cookery at Fiji National University (FNU) Technical College of Fiji (TCF), Dr Shaukat Ali Sahib Campus, Nadi. 

“After some unfortunate events, I realised that I needed to have a formal qualification to get a job so that I can feed my children.” 

“It is never too late to go back. I just had to keep going and put myself out there to other people.

Though my memory and mind was getting weaker, returning to classes after 33-years proved to me that I am never too old to learn,” said Driu. 

The Rakiraki native is enjoying her cookery classes and is even happier because one of her sons is also enrolled in the Certificate II in Fabrication and Welding programme at TCF. 

“ I am pleased that we mothers who never got an opportunity to complete tertiary education can learn how to become a chef and take on a new career with enthusiasm,” she said confidently. It has been a while since Driu sat in a classroom.

But with the help of her instructors, she was able to overcome her fear. 

“One advantage for me was that I have decades of life experience which I can put into practice. I always loved cooking meals with exciting flavours and thought to turn my cooking passion into a realistic career path,” she highlighted. 

According to Driu, now she will have better options to land a job because of her certificate. 

Brimming with hope Driu said, “previously, I had applied for positions but was not shortlisted because I had no formal qualifications, but now the certificate is a stepping stone  for me into the culinary world.” 

Driu’s advise to mature people without formal qualifications is to invest in a professional certificate programme that can open doors in the present and future careers. After finishing her programme, Driu is hopeful of getting a job and later opening her catering business in Nadi.

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