Up Close … with Vincent Milius, teacher, comedian, poet …-‘There’s always light at the end of a dark tunnel…’


We fail to accept the consequences of the decisions and actions we make.  One person inVincent Milius particular came to mind as I sat down pondering who the next person will be for our Up Close page.   Then it hit me; a person whose life choices sent him spiralling down a bottomless pit but who afterwards managed to soar out of it was just what I was looking for. That same person made some life-changing decisions that shaped the course of his future.

Meeting up with Vincent Milius, I knew I was in for a fascinating interview.  One that would surely leave a lasting impression on me and laughter across my face.  This is so because as a friend and past colleague, Vincent is not your typical everyday person; he has a gift for making people laugh their heads off. He is well reputed, especially by his students, for his comic appearances.  I decided to catch up with Vincent and see what he has been up to.

When I met him Vincent was on school holiday from work as a teacher at the International School but also preparing himself to teach at the School of Advance Level Studies (Sals) on a part-time basis.  When I asked him if he is getting paid for it, since he is also a full-time teacher in a private school, he replied: “I got it for free, so why should I be paid. It’s like giving back a little bit of what has been given to me.”

It goes to show the extent of Vincent’s gratitude.  Many times we forget or forgo the value of being grateful for the simplest things in life. 

Born on July 10, 1980, Vincent is a resident of Intendance, specifically “Dan Ban Nwanr” of the Takamaka district. The name which initially meant “Bois Noir” -- a tree that can be used to make furniture -- has gradually phased out to become “Ban Nwanr” as we know it today. He grew up with his mother and eight other siblings.

He describes his mother as a strong woman who did her utmost best to take care of all of them after his father deserted them.  Alone with eight kids, his mother strived to ensure the well being of her children despite the hardship of life back then.

Vincent wittily remembers how her mother took him to the clinic one day after an outbreak of chickenpox.  He says that he loves his mum dearly because she did her best as a mother.
Vincent describes his childhood as pleasant and agreeable.  He was not in a rush to grow up but rather enjoyed and benefited immensely from his childhood years. He smiles as he recalls some of the little things from his childhood, like when he read the “Prière Universelle” for his Holy Communion.  He also remembers when each child was given a glass of milk in the evening after school which many kids enjoyed.

Vincent attended Takamaka school from crèche till Secondary 2.  From S3 to S4 he went to Anse Royale followed by the National Youth Service (NYS) in 1997. He later proceeded to Foundation Studies at the Seychelles Polytechnic in Humanities and Science.  He also completed his Ordinary and Advance Level studies.  In 2008 Vincent graduated from the National Institute of Education with a Diploma in Social Sciences.

From the ashes is born a comedian
When asked how his love for drama started he said he was introduced to the art by his two teachers, Wilna Roseline and Maureen Lavigne.  At the time Vincent was in his first year of crèche.  He laughs as he himself cannot believe that he still remembers the title of the poem her two teachers taught him -- Lekel ki ti touy sren. 

From then on Vincent said it was as if he had been born for drama.  It’s a God given talent that comes naturally but he cannot forget his cousins Dr Justin Valentin and Dr Bernard Valentin who have also inspired him.  One can say that drama and poetry runs in their blood.  When asked if he has stage fright before a performance he responded by saying:

“I am allergic to stage fright, and I do not rehearse anything, it just flows spontaneously.”  Just to show the extent of his talent, Vincent won both the 1st prize and the star prize in last December’s stand-up comedy.

The first drama piece he wrote was entitled Ler lanmour i lalang.  He is writing a second piece entitled Lalert, laprid ek lapitennri. I laughed at the title as I can imagine, for sure, it will send the audience in stitches.

However before Vincent got to the height of his fame as a teacher and comedian, as well as poet, he had his share of difficulties in life.  As an ex-convict, for a mistake that he is not proud of, Vincent got the chance to sit for his exams while in prison.  He was determined to give himself another chance to shine.  “I consider myself as an imperfect individual, I have committed many errors, but I have learned a great deal from my many mistakes.  I consider myself strong as I was able to bounce back on my two feet, while never giving up,” added Vincent.

Vincent strongly believes that rehabilitation for offenders can only be accomplished if one accepts to be rehabilitated. “The government can offer the best rehabilitation scheme that can exist but if one is not willing to change and accept being helped then the programme will fail.  Rehabilitation is a lifelong process; one must be willing to proceed with it to the end.”

He admits to it being a difficult time in his life due to his action, but he accepts his mistakes and this has allowed him to move forward and grow up academically and socially. It has allowed him to be the funny guy we all know because he made a choice to learn from the faux pas he took.
“My message to everyone is that difficulties will exist. Jesus himself said that life will not be easy, however we should all remember that at the end of the dark tunnel, there is light.”

The Teacher
Schools that have known Vincent as a teacher will agree that there is never a dull moment, especially if something special is being organised like Children’s Day.  He will take the stage and send the crowd laughing till their ribcage hurts.  His stand-up comedies are full of humour but never lack a didactic twist to send us thinking about how we are living our life on this earth.

Vincent says once he wanted to become a lawyer but his true calling to become a teacher had always been there.  “I may not be a legal lawyer but I am still defending the kids as a teacher,” says Vincent. He does not believe that a person is born for himself but rather for society. 

“A teacher is a vocation,” adds Vincent, “and I chose this field because I love working with kids.” 
Many times he had tried to leave to venture into something new but found himself coming back to the starting point.  Among the schools he has taught at includes Plaisance, Anse Boileau, Anse Royale, English River secondary schools and presently the International School.  He worked at the Ministry of Education for a while as well.  Teaching has helped him to grow as a person, as he does not only teach but is willing to learn from the kids.

Rather than being pessimistic about the challenging job he has as a teacher, Vincent believes that he has more fulfilling moments rather than low ones in his career. 
“One must bear in mind that once engaged as a teacher there will be tough times, as kids will always be kids. Dealing with teenagers is not an easy task; as teachers we at times have to lower ourselves to their level in order to understand them.

“My greatest satisfaction is seeing the students that are categorised as low academically manage to achieve the smallest of things, and come back and say sir thank you for what you did for me.”
At that moment during our interview, Vincent’s phone beeped; it was a text message from a student he was tutoring.  She was thanking him for his help.  Now I can understand what he meant. These small acts of gratitude are heartwarming.

Plans for the future
Among his many achievements Vincent represented the Ministry of Education in the History Fair.  He was the representative member for the Takamaka district in the Youth National Assembly and also became the vice-chairman of NRA (Neighbourhood Recreational Activities). To crown it all he was voted Best Youth in Seychelles in 2007.  “Today I am making my mother proud of me,” he said.

One would thing that he feels fulfilled, but not Vincent. He wants to go to the next level and that is to get his Doctorate Degree in History, and again it is his cousin Dr Justin Valentin who is his source of inspiration. 

On August 5, 2013 Vincent will be accompanying Joseph Sinon to the “Festival Rire” in Mauritius as well as on the “Big 5” regional music tour.  Indeed Vincent has many more of himself that he wants to give, as he puts it: “I want to share my knowledge with the youths of Seychelles until I can no more.” 
For sure life’s limitations should not prevent one from daring to spread one’s wing and fly.
To end our interview Vincent had this to say:
« Mon anvi vin en pti zetwal
Pa pour mwan
Pour Sesel
Avan mon ferm mon lizye pour la dernyen fwa
Anter mwan dan later Takamaka. »


By J. C. Anacoura

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