Greetings your Eminence and fellow AFC Family! May I warmly welcome you all to the commencement of our journey for the new academic year 2023.
The new academic year started off with the Planning Week for 2023. The week activities usually started with the gathering of all teachers within the Catholic Education System. This is the time that His Eminence Cardinal is given the opportunity to address all the workers in the education vineyard of the Lord. The rest of the week is given to the respective schools and institutions to conduct their Planning for the rest of the year. One of the highlights of the program is the announcement that Takuilau College topped the Form 7 pass rates of 85% in the National Exams. We congratulate Takuilau College for their continued excellent performance in those national exams!
AFC Planning Week
The staff of the college started off the week with a Prayer Reflection. After that the focus was on the analysis of the general performances from last year, and in particular the results from the Form 6 external exams. The college obtained only a 10% pass rate, meaning that only 13 students out of 131 passed. Evidently, this is the lowest ever rate that AFC had achieved. Frankly, the results portray very poor reflections on the efforts of both the staff and students. The Director of Catholic Education did not mince his words when he came to address our teachers.
As Principal of the college, it's my privileged tasks to find a way to affirm my teachers. Personally, I feel for them as I knew deep down within my heart that we invested a lot in our efforts to prepare the students well for their exams. These are but some of the highlights:
~ Most if not all the students who sat the exams completed their Internal Assessments. Their marks ranged from 15 to 28 out of 30.
~ The coverage for all subjects was completed prior to the final exams.
~ The afternoon, evening, and weekend classes were carried out well as extra help.
~ The Volunteer Program was very helpful as ex-students reached out to assist the students by way of tutoring/mentoring.
~ Major improvements in terms of Text Books, Computers, Laptops, etc. provided by the ex-students and other donor agencies.
The truth is that there are still a few key factors that continue to negatively affect the operations of the college as far as empowerment of the teachers and students are concerned:
~ AFC is losing senior and qualified teachers each consecutive year. About an average of four senior staff members who teach in the exam classes leave the college each year for greener pastures! Last year 5 senior staff members left the college for better salary packages either in government schools or private sectors. This trend may perpetuate, unfortunately.
~ A key weakness is the Vetting System. In government schools or any other institutions for that matter, they have a Check & Balance system. For instance, officers from the Education Office regularly do Verification Visits to schools to check the operations of the teachers in the classrooms. By appraising the performance of the teachers, this will help them improve the standard of teaching and learning. In the case of AFC it's only the Principal who does that. This system helps a lot as it provides relevant data for those in authority to make timely decisions to find/transfer or even terminate contracts for under-performing teachers. One can only smile because the reality is if we terminate teachers, very likely we'll never find replacements! Also, none from other Catholic schools wish to be transferred here!
These past four years the sensitive issue of putting up a Benchmark for students to reach before being allowed to sit the exams has been the cause of heated discussions and arguments. Of course the teachers really want to set a criteria, e.g. 35% or 50% after the Mid-Year exams. I firmly believe that this strategy will vastly improve the pass rates of our students. Ironically, all other schools in Tonga have been and are still doing that! We can see the fruit of that as they have wonderful results. I know this for a fact because lots of students from other schools have joined AFC halfway through the year, and these ones were told they could not sit the exams before coming to AFC. We're lenient in this concept of bench-marking!
We have pledged to rise once again and renew our commitments to AFC! As Principal of the college I remain hopeful for the work that we do here in these past 4 years.
I look forward to the upcoming Synod of the Diocese. I pray and hope that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the intercession of our Blessed Mother, we may collectively find a way forward that will empower Catholic Education in Tonga, not just for Apifo'ou but for the whole system.
We're indeed grateful to the Hon. Minister Seventeen Toumo'ua for responding to the desperate call from AFC to upgrade the roads within the premises. Certainly, this is a welcoming sign to the students as they begin next week.
St. Mary's Repairs
The tiling of the Form 3 classrooms continued throughout the holiday and is almost complete. However, another project had to be added which is the repairs to the ceilings on the Admin Office. We're very grateful to 'Isitokia Paasi who is leading the project. She even has to bring her brother Manu from Wellington to carry out the work! Certainly, It's wonderful to see these two great legends as far as sports are concerned revisit the college and help with the repair works. Much to the delight of Sr. 'Akanesi who's always there to accompany the work. We're thankful that we have Sitiveni Tu'ipulotu and Felise 'Ulupano as handy helpers!
Oceania Province Chapter
From the 7th to 17th of January, the Oceania Marist Province held its Chapter Meeting at Marist College in Suva. I attended in my role as Sector Leader. It was also like a reunion with other confreres who worked in other missions throughout Oceania and beyond. I was delighted to have the endorsement of the Chapter that Marists will continue their undying commitment to AFC for the foreseeable future.
It was a mixed feeling when Fr. Lutoviko and I visited St. John's College Cawaci, Ovalau for the last time after the Chapter. I was there for 9 years and in these past 4 years Fr. Lutoviko was the last Marist standing at Cawaci! Yes, it was joyful and heart-breaking at the same time! Yet, we know as Marists that we have to move on as soon as we are done with our missions while handing it on to those coming after us.
Ex-Student's Surprise Visit
It's always a joy to meet up with ex-students from overseas. This time round it's a key member of the Executives from the USA, Ms 'Anau Pulu.
May I extend to you all our die-hard ex-students and supporters our sincere apologies for our failure, and yet we'll get up and go at it again, in the hope of lifting the standard of our learning outcomes in the coming year. As mentioned earlier, we have re-dedicated ourselves to the work of Mary at Apifo'ou College. And thank you very much indeed for your ongoing support and prayers for our beloved college.