Real life lessons
Cleaner Krishna Naidu goes to work every day to take out the rubbish and vacuum the floor at Elim Christian College.
He's also seen the grim side of humanity, going on two United Nations peacekeeping missions, getting caught up in a coup and being held at gunpoint.
But no one at the school knew about his past life until one of the classes started a unit that touched on United Nations peacekeeping.
Mr Naidu was going about his daily routine when he spied a poster completed by one of the students.
"I saw the symbol and said to the teacher ‘I used to be one of them'," he says.
And so a remarkable life story unfolded, bringing the textbooks alive for the students.
Mr Naidu was in the Fijian police force and went to Cambodia in 1992 for nine months as a United Nations peacekeeper.
He says the peacekeeping experience was incredibly rewarding.
"Once you leave the place and see what you have been there for and achieved, it leaves you very proud," he says.
He went on a second mission in 2008 to the African nation of Liberia as commander of the Fijian contingent.
He says his elderly mother wasn't happy to let him go a second time.
"She said, ‘you've already gone to Cambodia, you've already served the people. What more do you want? You've got your house here, you've got your family here'."
"I said to her, ‘just think of the people there, the families there' and then she was happy to let me go."
The Flat Bush resident says the most haunting experience to share with students was being held hostage for three days during the 2000 Fiji coup.
"I hardly talk about the coup. I get emotional.
"At night-time they would come and kick us.
"They told us all to line up and they cocked their rifles and we were given five minutes to say our prayers."
"That stayed in my mind," he says.
"For three months I couldn't sleep, if there was just a small sound I would be up."
He says he was happy to leave that life and those experiences behind in Fiji and enjoy Kiwi life.
"We are living in paradise here. We are comparing hell and heaven," he says.
"Thirty-five years in the force was too much for me. I have seen a lot. I wanted somewhere to be in peace."
Teacher Mandy Heim says Mr Naidu's tale was a welcome surprise.
"The students have benefited from hearing his story. It is what empowers us as educators to go ‘hey this is real, this isn't just a movie or a book, this is real life'."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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