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Critical Thinking and the politics of Aid

Updated: Jul 18, 2022

The recent flurry of diplomatic activity in the Pacific with our neighbours Australia and China sending their Foreign Ministers to Fiji led us to come up with this idea of a post. It is not our intent to argue the merits of countries' geopolitical ambitions (as PM Bainimarama said 'it's about climate change first' ) we leave all that to our political leaders. Suffice to say there is always a quid pro quo (a favour for a favour) in all arrangements. The good news is that the islands in the Pacific are now better known including on Australian television.

It was from this news event, that one of the team here recalled a USP lecture by Professor Tupeni Baba given in the early 1990s for his Graduate Certificate in Education. The lecture was based on the Professor's paper, "Academic Buccaneering Australian Style: The Role of Australian Academics in the South Seas" .

We went searching for this and thanks to the wonders of the internet we found it (link below). What we marvelled at from the paper was:

  • firstly, it was the first time that our team member here found out what " buccaneer" meant (thanks, Prof. Baba :-))

  • the 'lens' the paper applied in its 'agenda', it was for us, a direct shot at Australian institutions being seen as knowing more than the local ones and indeed, asking what was wrong with engaging USP staff who were the resident experts? It has other complaints of course key being the neo-colonialism attitudes etc. that Prof. Baba mentions and a theme post-independence.

  • even in the 1980s, there was 'increasing interest and involvement' as Prof. Baba notes in the Pacific. Fast forward 30 years later and the cycle repeats - has interest 'increased' again?

  • Lastly, and importantly, it reinforced for us the value of a thought and an idea and, how it helps shapes minds. The lecture our colleague recalled was from the early 1990s but the thoughts and ideas that Prof. Baba expressed still remain with him. What is more fundamental is that he didn't just swallow it as doctrine but having reflected on it, and critiqued it - has helped shape his views today 30 years on.

The parting message then is, that good teachers leave thoughts and ideas beyond today and, that we as teachers should never forget the influence we have over our students. Let's remember that every day and ensure we properly mould future citizens of the world.

A second message for you teachers of today is if Prof Baba were to write this paper today would it be any different? Thirty+ years on is advice still being provided by those same institutions from Australia and elsewhere or ,have we matured enough to trust our own institutions?

Work it out for yourself. That is the beauty and value of education. Have a good week ahead.

Attached is the paper we mentioned: here

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