Greetings your Eminence and fellow AFC Family!
Due to the fluctuations of the internet connection in Tonga, I'm only able to update you via emails and not on our website.
First and foremost, may I extend to you all our sincere gratitude for your prayers and support during these past few weeks with all the devastation at different levels.
On the 15th of January, we had the Synod Consultation at the Basilica. We were all imbued with vigor in our focus to find ways to harness the Catholic Education System in all domains. We had merely retreated to our respective places when the ashes and clouds were formed in a mushroom shape. And then the blasts began! It was so scary that everyone thought it's the end of Tonga! Miraculously, we lost only 3 lives and the rest of us survived.
A week later all the Catholic Schools and Institutions gathered at the Basilica for the 2022 Planning Week. As usual, the keynote address was delivered by His Eminence, Cardinal Mafi.
The rest of the Planning Week was left to the respective schools to carry on with their planned activities. Our Planning Week was focused on the cleaning up of ashes from the roofs and basically everywhere, inside and outside.
We did take time to have a look at the results of our exams from last year. We had expected better learning outcomes from last year based on all the invested efforts and collective inputs. Unfortunately, we only have slight improvements! For the Form 5's, out of 157 students, only 17 passed which is 11%, same as last year. Out of 116 in the Form 6, 27 passed which is 23%, only a slight improvement from last year (18%). The Form 7 continues to maintain their wonderful results. They improved from 75% last year to 83% this year and there were 35 altogether. The USP staff have expressed gratitude for our students' efforts as some of them had double A+'s including Maths.
Fast forward to the cleaning up, we organised clean-up sessions with teachers, students, ex-students and parents. We requested help from the Fire Department and Ca'Bella and they were very prompt and generous.
We were ready to begin the school year when the two cases of COVID-19 was announced. It has risen to 14 this morning so we expect this lockdown to continue.
After the funeral of the late Fr. Seluini Akau'ola sm we began the harvest of our cassava plantations. It was halted by the volcanic eruption but we managed to fill the container with 1,100 bags of cassava. Ironically, we filled the container last Tuesday afternoon and in the evening they announced the two cases of COVID-19!
I'd like to extend our sincere gratitude to Minoru Nishi Jr for allowing us to utilize his facility at 'Utulau for the peeling, cleaning, and packing of the cassava. This was a massive help FOC! Furthermore, the quality of the end product is of a high standard.
The container was supposed to be shipped to the US tomorrow. However, I have received messages from our Executives in the US that they have agreed to donate the container of cassava to NEMO to be distributed among the affected and desperate families. What noble intentions!
Yesterday, I made arrangements for His Eminence Cardinal Mafi to officially hand-over the container to the Hon. Prime Minister. This brief ceremony was done yesterday afternoon at the PM's office. I was invited also to be present but I informed the PM that the Bishop will represent us all.
We've heard countless remarks from experts on natural disasters, especially volcanic eruptions. They're flabbergasted and unable to fathom why the tiny island of Tonga remains afloat given the magnitude of the blast.
Thank you all for your prayers and support. A seemingly tough year like 2022 may well turn out to be a blessed one!