Lenten Greetings to your Eminence and fellow AFC Family!
I’m conscious of the lack of updates from the college up to this juncture. There are a few factors that contribute to this. Chief among them is the internet connection in Tonga which is far from being stable. The cables on the ocean floor have not been fully fixed. Currently, we’re at the mercy of the multi-billionaire Elon Musk's satellites!
Since the easing of restrictions in the past two weeks our teachers have been able to put together Notes & Exercises to be distributed to the students at all Levels. Even though there are classes and activities broadcasted on the radio from the Ministry of Education, we believe that our students have not benefited from it as much as we would like. Hence, it has been encouraging to see parents coming to school to pick up the learning materials.
At a Press Conference yesterday, the Prime Minister announced that Forms 6 & 7 will resume classes next Wednesday. The remaining Forms will remain at home. The Hon. Prime Minister further announced that beginning this year the Form 5 External Exam will be abolished. As President of the Tonga Secondary Schools Principals Association (TSSPA), I then raised my concerns with the Ministry that as a body of Principals we weren’t consulted properly on the matter, only to be told that the respective Directors of various Education Systems did some dialogue on the issue.
The rationale given by the Ministry's Director is that government thought that all schools in Tonga performed poorly in the past 3 – 5 years with the national average of 30% pass rates. Consequently, it’s better to allow students to reach and sit the Form 6 exams. Those failing to be promoted will divert to TVET and other institutions.
Catholic Education System
At the meeting of our Catholic Education System two weeks ago, we agreed that we’ll set Common Exam Papers for all Catholic Schools in Form 5. This will help with the promotion of students to Form 6 next year. There will be further discussions as we proactively deal with some of these sudden changes.
This week we continued with the harvest of our cassava. As of Thursday we managed to harvest 378 bags. We took a rest yesterday as the few teachers and students who have been regulars at these activities really need a break! We’ll resume the harvest next Tuesday and wrap it up on Wednesday with the target of 600 bags. This container will leave Tonga for NZ on the 29th of this month.
Part of the requirements for the teachers is to wear masks and maintain distance.
Amazingly, we still have enough cassava on the grounds to fill another container! But we’ve decided to keep those to help with the feeding of our students.
On the same note, we plan to continue with our project this year. Dr. Siua Halavatau is helping us with the planning of the farming crops. We’re looking into planting other crops such as taro and sweet potatoes. The Agriculture Science students now have lands available to plant their vegetables and other crops of their choice.
Yesterday, I attended the hand-over ceremony of 30 New Tractors from the People’s Republic of China as part of their relief package for Tonga. I had indeed written to the Honorable Prime Minister and humbly requested a tractor to replace the 105-year-old tractor at the college! I simply pointed out to him that we now have a few boarding students and we would like to continue with our Agriculture Project. Furthermore, maintaining the huge property of the college needs a solid and stable machine. We also look after the lawns at Montfort.
I have also received some remarks that the tractor was given by the government as a token of appreciation for the 1100 bags of cassava earlier donated to NEMO. Well, I personally believe that this is a blessing in disguise for all the efforts that we’ve invested on the college so far including our Agriculture Project.
This project has moved from second gear to fifth in terms of the variety of activities transpired in the past weeks! Next week we’ll pick up the assorted items from Melbourne: Laptops, iPads, Tablets, Projectors, etc. This is the first consignment to boost the Volunteer/Mentor programmes collectively funded and supported by both ex-student coordinators and volunteers including non-ex-students.
The timing is perfect as the Forms 6 & 7 resume classes next Wednesday. We’ll use the 'AFC Forum' section of our website but we’ll make sure that we run it through repeatedly with our staff and students to ensure they really get the gist of it.
Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to Mr. & Mrs. Fonomanu & ‘Unaloto Lolohea from Melbourne and your high profile team of volunteers as well as all our ex-students in Melbourne. The same sentiment goes out to those who wish to remain anonymous, being a good Marist with a hidden and unknown spirit.
Relief Aids to AFC
The current All Blacks and ex-student Shannon Frizell is orchestrating a fundraising drive to fix a portion of the fence that was destroyed by the tsunami waves. He contacted me a couple of weeks back and informed that he is putting up for auction his Training & Playing gears for his 50th Super Rugby game for the Highlanders. He showed me that in the first few biddings, the price of the jersey was more than $2,000 dollars!
My cousins the Kaufusi brothers who have represented both Australia and Tonga in Rugby League have teamed up with Shalom Catholic College in Bundaberg, Australia to fundraise for 'Apifo'ou. The Mayor of Bundaberg kindly opened the month-long fundraising drive with a cheque of $10,000 AUD.
It was a pleasant surprise to our teachers when two pellets of assorted food stuff arrived from St. Peter’s College in Palmerston North. These donated items were orchestrated by their Head Girl, Ms. Tupou Posese Siu, a great granddaughter of the late Sitani Mafi & Musie. Even teachers that were on lockdown for personal reasons, not COVID, and didn’t show up, were still delivered their fair shares to their homes!
Only in 'Apifo'ou!
There’s a funny saying that floats around these days, “Only in Apifo’ou!”
Only in Apifo’ou is cassava still being harvested even though all other schools are on lockdown!!
Only in Apifo’ou do teachers not come to school but are still being paid and given their fair share of donated items!!
Only in Apifo’ou was a 40 x 20 container of cassava still able to be donated to the government to help the victims of the volcanic eruptions!!
What noble gestures during this Lenten season and only in 'Apifo'ou!
May I extend to you all our sincerest gratitude for your ongoing prayers and support during these trying times. Just as Tonga has risen from the rubbles and ashes, so does Apifo’ou. We'll also rise from this turbulent passage, thanks be to God & you all.