From Mental institution to earning a PhD, the tale of Dickson Boboria

By Brian Lezutuni

September 24, 2020 will be etched forever in the mind of Solomon Islander Dickson Boboria.

It was the day he achieved his ultimate goal in reaching the pinnacle of his academic journey. He was rewarded that day with a PhD in the field of science after years of sacrifice and challenges.

It was a journey that lasted 20 years, one that saw him battle some of the strongest adversities, including time spent at a mental institution, living rough in Honiara’s largest garbage dumpsite and overcoming them with a decade long journey at The University of the South Pacific, and reaching the highest form of education success.

For Dr Dickson Boboria, dedication, discipline and devotion (3Ds) were the three important pillars of his academic journey.

“I have faced some of the worst situations that life can throw at you, but the three Ds are what made me pull through. They are the formula to my success,” he explained.

His graduation was also significant as it made him the first scientific expert on analytical chemistry in the Solomon Islands.

Analytical chemistry, according to online resources, concerns the science of obtaining, processing, and communicating information about the composition and structure of matter.

Put simply, it is the art and science of determining what matter is and how much of it exists.

Dr Dickson’s interesting story began as a student at Solomon Islands premier school, King George National Secondary School where he dropped out at Form Three.

His relatives managed to convince Waimapuru National Secondary School to allow him to complete Forms Four and Five but he failed to make it through to Form Six.

From then on, his life went downhill. As with the peer pressures of living in Honiara, he got into drugs and alcohol.

“My future was gone back then. I joined my peers smoking marijuana and other unwanted stuff,” he recalled.

“It worsened after my parents were asked to pay compensation and bride price, according to the custom of Malaita, when I impregnated someone.”

On the week that his newly bought wife was to move in with him, he suffered mental illness from sustained drug abuse and was admitted into the Kilu’ufi Hospital on Malaita Province, a hospital which also housed the country’s only mental department.

He remained in the institution for nine months, and was cleared for release after receiving visions of a man who gave him a scroll, and telling him that his dignity will be restored.

Things, however, did not improve for Boboria as returning to Honiara, he found himself an outcast and no relatives would allow him in.

He found solace with a garbage cleaner that he had grown acquainted with when he was attending high school.

The garbage collector from north Malaita lived at the Ranadi Dumpsite, the biggest and only refuse site in the city and Boboria moved in to live with him.

“We collected stuff thrown away to use and at times we found food that we ate to fight the hunger,” he said.

The burning desire to resume education was building up inside him as he saw it as the only way to get away from the misfortunes in life.

He then enrolled into an English Intermediate Course offered by USP in Honiara and every day would walk the long distance from the dumpsite to campus to attend classes.

On one of his walks to school, he came across part of a newspaper that was lying on the road. He picked it up and saw an advertisement for scholarship applications to undertake a diploma in teaching science from the Solomon Islands College of Education.

“I applied, went for an interview and was accepted to undertake studies, which took us five years to complete due to the ethnic crisis that happened back then,” he said.

Following the completion of studies, he started to teach in various schools within Honiara, three schools, Koloale, Mbua Valley and Naha schools.

“From 2007-2009 I was teaching and I used my salary to register myself into 100 level courses at the USP campus in Honiara,” he said.

In 2009, he applied for a government scholarship to continue his studies in Fiji and was given the go ahead in 2010.

“Since 2010 I have been here in Fiji, moving from undergraduate, to masters and eventually PhD studies which I managed to submit in November 2019, and complete in May 2020.

“I came here with a lot of determination from the experiences that I have learned in the past.”

He said the 10-year journey was achieved with a lot of determination, and his secret formula, the 3Ds or ‘D cube’ as he likes to refer to them.

 “With dedication, time is of the essence and you must work hard to utilize it, even if it means skipping time with friends to study, it must be utilized to ensure you reach the highest goal.

“Discipline, is when you avoid things that will bring you down in education, I have disciplined myself so much that I have not touched drugs, alcohol or even entered nightclubs here in Suva during my time here.”

On devotion, his faith in Christianity was one thing that sustained him and he made it a mission to never miss a Sunday in church.

He challenged students, especially Solomon Islanders who come to study, to follow the formula as it is a way that one can achieve their goal.

Dr Dickson’s area of specialty is on analytical chemistry and has been continuously advising the Solomon Islands government to take an interest in advancing the field of science.

“The government should look at building a scientific research laboratory as a way for research into herbal medicine, the utilization of our food products with a hindsight to move into the manufacturing industry.

“It is the only way forward for our country, Fiji is well ahead in its manufacturing industry and we must ensure that we too follow its path so our people can enjoy products that are affordable,” he said.

He looks forward to help in the development process in his country.