Educational Leader Overcomes Odds
From survivor Vanuatu to survivor Waikato - Johnny Marango surely wins the prize for overcoming adversity. The
University of Waikato School of Education graduate is from Lelepa (Efate) the same island that the television show,
“Survivor Vanuatu” was filmed on.
Lelepa has a population of 300 and the main mode of transport is canoe. Lelepa is on the western side of Efate, the main
island near Port Vila. The island which is situated at the entrance of the Havannah harbour is a World War Two memorial
site and has a paramount chief and a council consisting of low ranking chiefs.
Johnny says in Vanuatu gaining an education beyond secondary school is rare and gaining a postgraduate qualification is
even rarer. However, Johnny is an exception. He arrived in New Zealand in March 2004 after receiving a New Zealand
Government Assistance Aid Development scholarship. Back home he was a secondary school teacher, a Ministry of Education
research officer and then the acting director for non-formal education for the Ministry of Youth Development and
Now with a Postgraduate Diploma in Educational Leadership from the School of Education, Johnny wants to utilise his new
skills and also complete his Masters in Educational Leadership.
“In Vanuatu there are not many graduates who work in educational administration. We need the resource people to help
improve our education system. What is important is developing our skills and knowledge because the world and technology
Johnny admits uprooting his family, settling in a new country and studying is a challenge. However he is grateful for
the support he received from School of Education staff, in particular lecturer Jane Strachan. Jane was instrumental in
developing Vanuatu’s gender education policy and met Johnny in Vanuatu. She encouraged him to pursue higher education
and then mentored him when he began his studies.
“I really appreciated the support I had from the university’s support services and lecturers. I had good times and bad
times, but the university staff were very kind and gave me direction. Sometimes I wanted to give up but they encouraged
me not to.”
Johnny says studying has developed him personally but has also given him a better understanding of educational
leadership and the relevant issues. In particular he is keen to educate parents about the value of education. He hopes
to do this through workshops.
“The most important thing that I have learned is the need to develop partnerships with the government, schools and
communities. No man’s an island. We need to work together more closely and raise our standard of education. Parents need
to be more involved in their children’s education.”
Eager to make a difference in Vanuatu, Johnny believes education is the key. He encourages other teachers from the
Pacific islands to apply for scholarships and to also utilise the School of Education’s online facilities.
“Education is one of the key priorities for development not only for children but for the nation as a whole. It helps
provide employment and benefits the country economically.”