Lenten greetings your Eminence and fellow AFC Family!
Lockdown status: This is the second week of lockdowns after the confirmed and recorded deaths from Covid went up to six. Currently, the number of positive cases may have reached the 6,000 mark and is still climbing! Hence, the lockdown might be extended for an indefinite period.
Teaching & Learning Progress
The radio program facilitated by the Ministry of Education for Primary and Secondary schools is ongoing. We’re indeed grateful to the Ministry for these efforts. However, it would be interesting to conduct a survey or evaluation to see how effective and beneficial this program is. We have to take into consideration the mental state of people in general. Of course, young people and especially children tend to react differently even in an environment of fear and lockdowns.
I have written a short Reflection Paper for our Academia Alumni at Australian Catholic University entitled “Caught on the Crossroad: Education in Tonga in the Aftermath of the Volcanic Eruption and Amidst COVID-19”. There I put forward a few insights into the struggles of our students and the uncertainty of this year’s program. The greatest fear among our students is that they might miss this year’s External Exams should these lockdowns perpetuate. You may download the article below:
Abolished Form 5 External Exam: Pros and Con
I have mentioned in a previous update that all Principals of our Catholic Schools in Tonga have met with the Director of Catholic Education to map out strategies to counter this abrupt decision by the government. The obvious one is that we will have to set Common Paper Exams for our own schools. This will help with the promotion of students from Form 5 to Form 6 at the end of the year.
The other question concerns the Entry Certificates to our Technical Institutes such as 'Ahopanilolo, SJBC, and Montfort? I think it’s a matter of writing up an MOU with those Principals and Director to allow our students to enter with the respective Certificates issued by our different schools. Better still, all our Catholic Schools agree on creating an Official Certificate signifying the successful completion of Form 5 by our students.
An immediate benefit to Apifo’ou is the headache of preparing the so many students in Form 5, as we normally have seven Form 5's. We’ll be in a better position to screen and identify the ones deserving promotion to Form 6. Of course, we’ll have more time to help our students as they come up the ladder from the junior levels.
Our Volunteer Program has moved up a notch! Due to the prolonged lockdowns the need to engage the staff and students is becoming more acute. Henceforth, the collective efforts put together by our Coordinators and Volunteers are highly commendable.
You may have seen in the last update that our staff and students are now trying to familiarize themselves with the AFC Forum section on our website. A new innovative strategy has been kindly offered by the Editor of Livewire Learning in New Zealand, Mr. Neil Riley. Apparently, Mr. Riley is a colleague of our dedicated Volunteer, Viliami Sevele. They have offered another pivotal tool to assist our staff and students. I’ll leave the details for later but basically, they can log on for free and utilize the wide variety of subjects offered on the Livewire Learning website.
Mr. Riley has kindly donated textbooks to the college which we will clear out from Customs once the lockdown eases. We’re profoundly indebted to this kind gentleman for reaching out to our teachers and students in this desperate time. “Cometh the hour, cometh the man”! Thank you also to ex-student Viliami Sevele.
Cassava Container for NZ
The boat that carries our cassava container for NZ departed Queen Salote Wharf last Monday. The Executives from Aotearoa, led by Lita Foliaki Edwards, Peta Tausinga Kennedy, Solomone Sakalia, Rev. Uilameti, Dr. Vaipuna Raass, Chris Muller, etc. are looking forward to feast on the best manioke from Tonga, aka Matahau cassava!
There is still plenty of cassava to fill another container but we’ve agreed that once the lockdown ends we’ll pull and sell them at the market just in front of the college. There have been orders from local restaurants and other organizations so we’re excited about that prospect.
Cleaning up of the school’s property
Whilst on lockdown the teachers living within the school’s property continue to do some cleaning up of the lawns. We’re indeed grateful to Mrs. Paea Laukau and her husband Siale for leading this campaign.
Relief Aid to AFC
Last week $22,445.30 was donated from Bundaberg, Australia as part of their support for the college. My cousin Antonio Kaufusi, an ex-Kangaroo and MMT player who's now a teacher at Shalom Catholic College in Bundaberg, led the campaign together with his family. The Tonga Appeal was keenly supported by the Bundaberg Town Council. The Mayor, Mr. Jack Dempsey, opened the appeal with $10,000. The Principal of Shalom College, Mr. Dan McMahon, was also part of the appeal team.
Another donation to AFC of $11,283.53 was deposited from NZ. This was orchestrated by our ex-student and current All Black, Shannon Frizell and friends. In fact, Frizell auctioned his rugby outfits when he played his 50th game for the Highlanders. We’re indeed grateful to Shannon, Shane, Armanda, and crew for this generous support.
Both appeals have asked for a project so that their donations can be used for a good and specific purpose. The funds from Bundaberg will go into the Solar System project of the college. Due to the intensity of natural disasters in the Pacific we’ve decided to continue with this project. The St. John’s block has 33 solar panels on its roof. We’ll focus on the Admin Block and the new classrooms at the St. Mary’s campus. We’re liaising closely with Mr. Sione Tausinga who works at MEIDECC and we’re following his advice on this project. The donations from Frizell & friends will go to the reconstruction of the fence which was damaged by the tsunami waves. The shots below of damaged part of the fence were taken on the day after the tsunami.
May I extend to you all our sincere gratitude for your prayers and support for the college during this challenging time. As we edge closer to Holy Week I pray that the Apifo’ou Family, both at home and abroad, will be blessed ever more abundantly.