Dr Palatasa Havea. Photo/Facebook

Dr Palatasa (Tasa) Havea ‘s father repeatedly told him that if he did not get an education he would spend the rest of his life curing copra for a living.

Originally from Vava’u, Dr Palatasa (Tasa) Havea came from a large, poor family.

Dr Havea eventually became the first Tongan to win a doctorate in food technology and is now  a senior research scientist with Fonterra.

Now he is using his experience as a poor student to encourage young people to succeed at school.

He said his own difficulties had inspired his work with young people.

“We [Pacific Islanders] don’t always do very well in our education and the Ministry of Education has used me a lot as an example of someone who was really bad at school to help the kids, to see the potential to do well,” he told Stuff.

“We set up programmes to help kids with the literacy and numeracy.

“I think I know how they do well and how they do badly and how to turn them around to become good kids. I try to use my own experience.”

Dr Havea is chair of the Pacific Health Research Committee of the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

He recently stepped down as a member of the advisory board to the Ministry of Pacific Peoples, where he served for 13 years.

Dr Havea’s early years were an educational disaster. He failed grade 10 three times, but after  moving to Tongatapu he persuaded another school to let him into the final year after claiming  he  had completed the school certificate.

With a different set of teachers and a different atmosphere, his grades improved, he won prizes and learned to read and write properly.

After school he joined the Tonga Commodities Board and after studying for two degrees at Massey, joined New Zealand milk producer Fonterra.

A specialist in biotechnology, molecular biology and structural biology, he is a senior research scientist at the Fonterra Research and Development Centre (FRDC).

He took a leading role in research that led to enhanced products that contribute millions to the New Zealand economy.

He is involved in a range of community issues and late last year talked about suicide among teenagers in island communities in New Zealand.

In 2005, he told the Pacific Prosperity Conference that Pacific youth needed role models and mentors, self-discipline and the courage to achieve their dreams.

He is active in his church and sits on the board of International Student Ministries New Zealand.

He and his wife Sesimani have three children.

His daughter, Lueni, became her school’s first Tongan head girl and last year was part of a student team that won the technology prize at the Manawatu Science and Technology Fair.

She also mentors year one to six students in literacy.

The main points

  • A Tongan born scientist is using his experience as a poor student to encourage young people to succeed at school.
  • Palatasa (Tasa) Havea, who was the first Tongan to win a doctorate in food technology, said his own difficulties had inspired his work with young people.
  • Originally from Vava’u, he came from a large, poor family.
  • His father repeatedly told him that if he did not get an education he would spend the rest of his life curing copra for a living.

For more information

The scientist who spent three years in Year 10

International Student Ministries New Zealand

Education key to Islanders’ pay

A head for business

1 COMMENT

  1. Kuo hoko e fakataukei ‘a ha saienitisi Tonga ko ha faʻifaʻitakiʻanga ki he fānauako ʻoku toutoutō he malaʻe ʻo e akó.

    Ne toutou tala ange ʻe he tangataʻeiki ʻa Dr Palatasa (Tasa) Haveá ka ʻikai ke maʻu hano tuʻunga fakaakó pea ʻe hoko e tauaki niu ko ʻene maʻuʻanga moʻuí pe ia.

    Ne haʻu ʻa Dr Palatasa mei Vavaʻu mei ha fāmili tokolahi mo masiva.

    Ka kuo iku ange ʻo ne hoko ko e fuofua Tonga ia ke maʻu hono toketā ʻi he malaʻe tekinolosia ki hono faʻu ʻo e meʻakaí.

    ʻI he taimi ní ʻokú ne fakaʻaongaʻi ʻene taukei heʻene hoko ko ha tokotaha ako masiva ke fakalotolahia ʻa e toʻu tamaiki kei akó ke nau lava he akó.

    Ne ne pehē kuo hoko ʻa hono faingataʻaʻiaʻangá ke ne fakalotoa ia heʻene ngāue mo e tamaikí.

    “Ko kitautolu kakai ʻOtumotu Pasifikí ʻoku ʻikai ke faʻa sai ʻetau akó pea kuo tātuʻolahi hono toutou fakatātāʻaki au ʻe he Potungāue Akó ko ha taha ne fuʻu vale fakaako ʻaupito, ke tokoni ki he kau leká ke nau ʻilo ʻoku ʻi ai pe faingamālie ki he taha kotoa ke sai he akó”, ko ʻene fakatamala ʻeni ki he ongongo ʻa e Stuff.

    Ne ne pehē kuo nau fokotuʻu ha ngaahi polokalama ke tokoni ki he tohi mo e faifika ʻa e fānaú.

    ʻOku ou tui ʻoku ou ʻilo e founga ke sai ai ʻenau akó mo e founga ʻoku kovi aí mo ʻilo foki e founga ki hono liliu kinautolu ke nau hoko ko e tamaiki lelei.

    Kuó u feinga ke u fakaʻaongaʻi pe ʻeku taukei ʻaʻakú, ko Dr Havea ia.

    Ko Dr Havea ʻoku sea ʻi he kosilio Pacific Health Research Committee of the Health Research ʻa Nuʻu Silá.

    Ne ne toki mālōlō mai hili ia ʻene hoko ko e mēmipa he poate faleʻi ʻa e Potungāue ki he Kakai Pasifikí ʻi ha taʻu ʻe 13.

    Ne fuʻu faingataʻaʻia fakaako ʻa Dr Havea heʻene kamata akó.

    Ne ne tō tuʻo tolu he kuleiti 10, ka ne hili ʻene hiki hake ki Tongatapú ne ne lava ai ʻo hū he taʻu fakaʻosí ʻi ha akoʻanga ʻe taha hili ia ʻene pehē ne lava ʻene sivi tohi fakamoʻoni akó.

    Koeʻuhī ko e kau faiako mo e ʻatimosifia kehe ʻeni ia ne fakalakalaka ai hono māká pea ne ne maʻu ha ngaahi pale pea lava ʻo laukonga mo tohi fakalelei.

    Hili ene akó ne ngāue ai ʻi he Poate Mataka ʻa Tongá pea hili ʻene ako ki hano mataʻitohi ʻe ua ʻi Massey, ne ne ngāue ai ʻi he kautaha huʻakau Fonterra ʻi Nuʻu Sila.

    Ko e sipēsialisi ia ʻi he paiōtekinolosiá, paiolosia molekulaá mo e paiolosia selakisaá pea kuó ne hoko ai ko e toko taha fakatotolo saienisi māʻolunga ʻi he Fonterra Research and Development Centre (FRDC).

    Kuó ne taki ʻi he fakatotolo ki he ngaahi polōtaki ʻoku fai hono fakaʻāsili ke toe lelei angé ʻa ia ʻoku ʻomi ha laui miliona ki he ʻekonōmia ʻa Nuʻu Sila

    ʻOkú ne tokoni ki he ngaahi faingataʻa fakakomiunitī kehekehe pea ʻi he taʻu kuo ʻosí ne ne lea ai ʻi he taonakita ʻa e tinesaá pe tamaiki ʻi he taʻu 13 ki he 19 ʻi he ngaahi komiunitī ʻailani ʻi Nuʻu Silá.

    ʻI he 2005 ne ne tala ange ai ki he Pacific Prosperity Conference ʻoku fie maʻu ʻe he toʻutupu Pasifikí ha ngaahi faʻifaʻitakiʻanga mo menitoa, fakaʻulungāanga fakaeteia mo ha lototoʻa kae lava ke nau aʻusia ʻenau ngaahi misí.

    ʻOku longomoʻui ʻi hono siasí pea ʻoku ʻi he poate foki ʻa e International Student Ministries New Zealand.

    ʻOku ʻi ai ʻena fānau ʻe toko tolu mo Sesimani ko hono uaifí.

    Ko hono ʻofefiné ʻa Lueni ne hoko ko e fuofua matāpule lahi Tonga ia ʻi hono ʻapiakó pea ʻi he taʻu kuo ʻosí ko e taha ia ʻo ha timi fānauako ne nau ikuna ʻa e pale ki he tekinolosiá ʻi he Manawatu Science and Technology Fair.

    ʻOkú ne toe menitoa foki ʻa e fānauako taʻu taha ki he onó ʻi he litelasiá.