Fiona Lovatt – inducted 2021
Monday, 31 October 2022
Marsden Years: 1972-1977 (Year 7–Year 12)
This award recognises Fiona’s achievements in education, social justice and equity especially in communities in Northern Nigeria.

Inspired by Keri Kaa at Teachers’ College, Fiona followed her passion for reading and its importance and that of education to create change for the better for children. She became a Principal of Oturu School in Northland which, under her guidance also became a creative centre for artists and writers.

Her passion for teaching brought her to the conference circuit where her workshops promoted her philosophy that when education becomes a passion not a duty it effects change in both students and teachers. With her interest in literacy and reading she wrote several readers for young children which have since been translated into Te Reo and other Pacific languages.

It was through this passion for reading that Fiona first went to Nigeria to attend a conference which resulted in her “Books without Borders” campaign in 2001. Through this campaign a container load of books was filled by New Zealand children and sent to Nigeria to be shared between 190 schools and Nigerian children.

In 2005, Fiona converted to Islam, something she had been considering for many years.  

Since 2011 Fiona has lives in Borno in northern Nigeria and now not only teaches children to read but promotes and achieves small, but important grass roots projects to support village communities. These include repairing water bores, solar panels, production of a small thermette to boil and sterilize water; simple procedures to help prevent death in child birth, tree planting, a home of twelve student boys, all improving life in the village.  There are plans for more.

To garner global support, especially financial, Fiona uses social media, particularly Facebook. YouTube and Tedtalks.  She has created a foundation as an avenue for fundraising for her projects and an awareness of what is possible and can be achieved. She is also a poet and artist, both skills she uses to support her work.

In a recent interview when asked about what she had learned about her life in Nigeria she said. 
I have learned about patience and resilience. I have learned about courage and grace. I have learned about headlines and some of what lies behind them…….... I have learned some humility. I have relearned things too: that literacy is a gift so powerful it lifts people out of poverty; the knowledge is a light. I have to let these lessons percolate a while before I can make orderly sense of them. In the meantime, I respond to those lessons through art and action.

Photo: RNZ Nights with Karyn Hay 2020