(This interview was conducted in late May, 2011)Joakim "Jojo" Peter
by: Universe Yamase
Joakim Peter is from Etal, Mwortlocks. He graduated from Xavier High School in 1984. Graduated from the University of Guam in 1989 with a BA in communications. He received his Masters Degree in Pacific Island Studies in 1994, then a second Masters Degree in History in 1997.
Currently he is working as the Director of COM Chuuk Campus and he is also the head of the Chuuk Disabled Persons Organization. He is also involved with Friends of Xavier Chuuk (FOX-C), He is on the Board for Xavier High School, Board for Saramen Chuuk Academy, Board for the Chuuk Conservation Society, and he is also a founding member of the FSM Disability Council.
COM Chuuk Campus:
Mr. Peter was hired at the College of Micronesia, Chuuk campus, right out of graduate school in 1996 with a background in Pacific History, Social History, and Micronesian Cultural Studies. He was soon tasked with a cultural studies project on traditional navigation and oral histories.
He was also interviewed for an employment opportunity at COM's national campus in Pohnpei. But, as he states, Chuuk was the "only place [he wanted] to work".
In 2002 he became the campus director. Since then A major project for Mr. Peter was finding a permanent site for the campus. With the help of Project director Alfred Olter, they started work on a location in Bou village. They now have legal title of the land and a clear access for vehicles. The campus only lacks facilities. Though this project has taken over 15 years the importance is undoubtedly great.
Although a new site would benefit the college, the island of Weno still has its problems and directly effects the operations of the campus. It remains difficult to sustain a post secondary education with the continuous power outages, unavailable sewage system and damaged roadways. In Mr. Peter's own words, "We've worked hard to develop".
Regardless of the challenges, the campus has seen an upswing. The current campus has a back-up generator, purchased in 2005. Faculty members have "credential degrees", masters degrees and are experienced. With over 70% of the faculty members locals, the college has a better ratio than any other institution in the region. The current site has added new classrooms in 2005-2006. And it is also an accredited college.
Mr. Peter's focus is on building a good curriculum in the study of Education. Though he points out that there are other general studies opportunities such as Business & Vocational studies, his center of interest is in Education.
He adds that you are not lowering yourself when you go to a community college. This is a great opportunity for the locals to have a college experience close to home. And a community college has a stronger focus on general education requirements. And for those who wish to continue their studies abroad, they can always choose to meet their general education requirements at home before moving abroad. Additionally, it is cheaper and much more manageable.
Though there are no statistics to indicate that COM students have gone on to succeed in universities abroad, Mr. Peter assures us that there are several.
Personal University Experiences:
Mr. Peter reminisces about his college days and the tough schedule he endured as a radio DJ in Guam. He worked for power 98 under the name of "JoJo" for 4-5 years before he entered grad. school. He started at 12:00 midnight to 6:00 in the morning. His first class started at 8:00am then he quickly went to work study. He only had 5 hours of sleep time for 4 years during the weekdays.
He recalls his application to the radio station. He was called in after the manager heard his demo tape and showed interest in his work. Mr. Peter was paid little attention to and was given little support. He remembers waiting in the lobby and the manager walking passed him, unaware that he was the man he called in for the job. The manager decided to speak about the challenges of the job instead of addressing the opportunities he'd be presented with. Though Mr. Peter was underestimated he was happy to work. His cheerfulness carried over the airwaves as the station received good coverage. Mr. Peter was, as he remembers, "the most excited DJ".
Chuuk's Disabled Person's Organization:
Mr. Peter is an advocate for The Chuuk Disabled Persons Organization, for the rights and opportunities for disabled individuals. He is recently in talks with the national government to ratify a United Nations Convention to protect the rights of disabled persons. Currently, there are no laws in the FSM supporting the rights of the disabled. There is now a national disability council with representatives from all the four states of FSM, known as The FSM disability council, of which he is a founding member. He plans to stop his day job and pour all his efforts into this cause. At the present, no one knows just how many FSM citizens are disabled. Vague statistics indicate that 10% of our population have disabilities, but there really is no clear census. And we really do not know how many of our disabled citizens are being denied their rights. An example is accessibility. Like in the USA, where people who are dependent on wheelchair have access to almost all areas in their communities.
An early solution to this problem is awareness. The nation needs to communicate with their citizens about disability issues. Mr. Peter points out that, "we tend to hide our disabled people." We need to address this issue so that our resources can be available to all our citizens, including the disabled. It is an important topic, but a topic that we ignore. If we continue to maintain this negative attitude we then continue to deny our disabled citizens their fundamental freedoms.
For more information about the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabiliites please follow the link provided below. Also provided are links to COM's main website and COM Chuuk's website.
2. COM Main Website.
3. COM Chuuk Campus.