Women leading and influencing



Literacy leadership needs mentoring, says Jiupili on International Literacy Day

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

WLI scholar and learning specialist Jiupili Bete Ralulu Simmons from Fiji believes effective leadership in literacy and education must be student-centred and involve mentorship opportunities.

On International Literacy Day (8 September), the Master of Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) student shared insight into Fiji’s high literacy rate and the interconnectedness between education and developmental leadership.

Jiupili also explained how her own mentorship through WLI is helping her achieve her goals, and what COVID-19 means for educators and students.

How literacy impacts development

Jiupili, an experienced high-school teacher, believes literacy is about having the skills and knowledge necessary to communicate – which is vital to Fiji’s (and the world’s) development.

Literacy “is the heart of basic education and will be essential in eradicating poverty, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality, ensuring sustainable development, and empowering people to be able to reweave their traditional knowledge together with western knowledge”, Jiupili explains.

Inversely, she fears illiteracy “in this day and age of digitalisation and globalisation will cost individuals opportunities, set communities back and slow the pace of developing skills and changing … perspectives to match the needs of today’s society”.

Strong commitment & leadership boost Fiji literacy rate

Jiupili believes Fiji’s high literacy rate, at 99.74 per cent (UNESCO, 2017), can be explained by the country’s strong commitment to – and leadership in – education.

Fiji’s adopted policies and strategies such as “education to Year 12, assistance to schools through grants, or the Fiji Islands Literacy and Numeracy Assessment”, Jiupili says, are but a few examples of this commitment.

Effective leadership in literacy & education needs mentorship

During her time as a high-school teacher, tutor and learning specialist at the University of South Pacific (USP), Jiupili assisted in establishing the inaugural Student Learning Department at Labasa Campus.

Its aim is to assist students transitioning to tertiary education, through mentoring and academic support.

“Personally, I believe in the power of mentoring as a form of ‘good leadership’ in teaching and literacy,” Jiupili said.

“For too long, teaching has always been teacher-centred” explains Jiupili. However, the current shift in education towards more student-centred pedagogies, has brought “an opportunity to showcase what can be achieved [through] a collaborative approach to mentoring”.

While a participant on WLI’s Leadership and Mentoring Program, Jiupili is mentored by Cara Dinneen, the Associate Director of Learning and Teaching at Macquarie University English Language Centre.

Of the mentoring partnership, Jiupili explained Cara’s “experiences, constant advice, leadership guides and words of wisdom have opened up new dimensions of interest, knowledge and practical ways to engage what I have learnt”.

Jiupili added, “My time with WLI has boosted my confidence, equipped me with knowledge [and been a] real life-changer and a blessing … preparing young emerging Pacific women to be the next generations of leaders in the Pacific”. The “friendships formed with the sisters of the Pacific isles, and networking opportunities created” through the program have also been a highlight.

Developmental leadership & education ‘synonymous’

According to Jiupili, teaching and providing developmental leadership are “synonymous”.

“They relate in the sense that teachers must continue to upskill themselves, sync with modern technology, be of teachable heart, open mindset, receptive to positive feedback … and be willing to adjust teaching pedagogies to suit the ever-changing needs of their customers in the classrooms – the students,” Jiupili said.

In developmental leadership, Jiupili believes the same occurs.

“There are multiple mechanisms of formal instruction, feedback, coaching, and self-directed learning … they occur in a series of combinations or events for the developmental leader to be effective, attain goals, and produce results,” Jiupili said.

Literacy in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond

The 2020 theme for International Literacy Day is ‘Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond’ – with a focus on the role of educators and changing pedagogies.

To that end, Jiupili acknowledges “the persistence of young people, adult learners, and the innovative ways that our lecturers have had to redesign courses, programmes, and the support staff working tirelessly to ensure that studying in the face of this pandemic is not halted, abrupt, chaotic, or ambiguous whether it be in the Pacific or here in Australia.”

“We must take courage and not fear that we are inadequate, yet we must rejoice knowing that our bid for literacy in the face of this COVID-19 crisis makes us more powerful, beyond measure,” she said.


International Literacy Day is celebrated annually on 8 September. Proclaimed by UNESCO in 1966, it is a day to remind the international community of the importance of literacy for individuals, communities and societies. Literacy is a key component of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals and the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.