First of all, an enormous THANK YOU for your support and encouragement in so many ways, for your prayers for us personally, for your donations and for your time, all of which have provided life-changing opportunities for many of the students, and without which the school would simply not function.
(The photos on our '2016 Pictures' page will illustrate the items below.)
HELP FOR STUDENTS
Some of you have provided money to pay students’ fees, which makes a huge difference to their families as well as to the school’s income, as it receives a Government subsidy for each school fee paid. Only a small proportion of students’ families can afford the fees, so the school is really grateful for every one which is paid.
Some of you have provided money for further education for students who have left St Andrew’s. This year more students have taken advantage of automatic entry into Year 13 at Tonga High School, the top Government school, while others have gone into vocational training (eg teachers’ college, catering and hospitality, building and electrical training, IT etc), and others into further education at Tupou Tertiary Institute. We feel it is a real indication of the rising standards at St Andrew’s that more of their school-leavers are choosing to do further study. With your help, we’ve been able to pay fees and expenses for some of these young people.
A new development at the school this year has been the introduction of an industrial technology course onsite, in conjunction with the Manukau Institute of Technology, and a number of our students have moved into this stream. They have just had their graduation ceremony and we hear that they have all got jobs for next year.
Some of you have contributed towards the expenses of Posesi Fanua, the former St Andrew’s student who has been at King’s College for his final two years of school education. This has been a very significant experience for him, and he plans to further his studies at the University of the South Pacific in Tonga as from next year.
Thanks to financial and organisational support from St Andrew’s Church, Epsom, two of the school’s most committed and promising teachers, Fololeni and Mathew, were able to spend two weeks in June observing at Edgewater College, Pakuranga, and came back most inspired by their experience. This professional development opportunity is invaluable for our Tongan teachers, and we are so grateful to the Epsom church for agreeing to fund it again next year for another two teachers.
Thank you too to those of you who have provided money for teaching materials for the school, for stationery, text books, including a class set of dictionaries, as well as building materials, hardware such as security mesh for the music block and air conditioners for the computer rooms, not forgetting repairs to brass instruments, music and sound equipment, and for paying Kay Hawk’s air fares – all of which have contributed considerably to raising standards at the school.
When we first arrived at St Andrew’s seven years ago, we were told that it was “at the bottom of the heap”. With your help, as well as the professional help of significant people like Kay, who has continued to visit the school twice each year (donors pay her fares but she gives her time free) to mentor the principal, staff and school board, St Andrew’s has a growing reputation as one of the more progressive and well-equipped schools, as well as probably the most humane, in Tonga. The principal, Mo’unga Maka, continues to grow in stature and confidence, particularly among other Tongan school principals who recognise his wisdom and go-ahead attitude.
This year has been a little different for us in that we have made three separate visits to the school, for a month each time. The main focus for each visit was facilitating the visit of a group from NZ, though we continued with a range of other jobs around the school (such as replacing toilets!) as time allowed.
ST ANDREW’S, EPSOM
The first group, which came in April, was from St Andrew’s Epsom, a church which has been supporting us ever since we began our association with the school. It was their second visit, and this time they brought a group of teachers, specifically to run “English week” (an annual event) at the school. The teachers helped the students to extend their use of English in writing poems and essays, holding debates, presenting speeches and short drama skits. The team will be returning to run English week again in April next year.
In July, the school was visited for the fourth year by another group of 20 students, chaplains Warner and Onosa’i and teacher Imogen from King’s College. Last year their group got caught up in the Coronation festivities, which was of course a unique experience for them, but this time they spent most of their time at the school, building classroom furniture, painting and repairing the Music block, helping the St A’s students with reading and writing, as well as running sports activities for the students (photos 3 – 5). A highlight for them all was being billeted with families of St A’s students for part of their stay. King’s packed and sent over a large amount of equipment for the school, some of which had been contributed by others, and the school was very grateful for it all.
Included in the container were 18 brass instruments which had been donated by the Taupo Concert Band as they no longer needed them (photo 6). This has given a wonderful boost to the school’s brass band, which has a growing profile in the school and community. (Thanks to our friends who drove them up to Auckland, and another friend who checked them and identified those which needed repairing!).
In September, a group of 46 students and teachers came over from Onslow College, Wellington. This was the largest group we have ever hosted, and provided us with some logistical challenges! However, the visit was hugely successful, and they are even talking about a return visit in a couple of years! This visit came about because in 2014 they hosted a former student and head prefect of St Andrew’s, Kaveinga Vaka, for a whole year.
Kaveinga spent the year in the music department at Onslow College, both as a Year 13 student and also teaching junior students, and some of you contributed generously to his expenses at the time. While in Wellington, he had trumpet lessons from a member of the NZSO and sang in the Orpheus Choir. Last year Kaveinga returned to St Andrew’s to run the music department, raising the standard of the school brass band to new heights. This year he has been studying music in a new tertiary music course at Tupou Tertiary Institute in Nuku’alofa. Kaveinga has continued helping with the school band this year, and will return to the school next year to resume running the music department.
Onslow College brought their music, drama and visual arts students and teachers, and the whole of their visit was spent interacting not only with the St A’s students but also in visiting three other Nuku’alofa schools, performing at their assemblies and running workshops. Each afternoon they rehearsed with our students for a combined concert which ended the week. As well as music, there were drama performances which had been prepared during the week under drama teacher Brooke. Throughout the week, visual arts students, supervised by art teacher Naomi, painted a large mural on one of the school walls, which gradually became a whole school project as the week progressed, with St A’s students and teachers joining in too. Onslow brought with them a range of musical instruments which they very generously donated to the school.
The NZ High Commissioner, Sarah Walsh, and her husband attended the concert, and were obviously impressed by the progress which has been made at the school, and everything that is going on.
Shortly afterwards, a wonderful donation of classroom furniture arrived from St Paul’s Collegiate, Hamilton, and the school now has some very modern- looking classrooms! Earlier in the year, RangiRuru School in Christchurch sent money for new chapel furniture and curtains for the sanctuary. This was blessed during the visit of King’s College.
NEW SCHOOL READERS
One of our Wellington friends, Penny Porritt, came over in July to provide meals for the party from King’s College. Her colourful experiences at the school and in Tonga have given birth to the most marvellous booklet for young readers, drawing also on her years of experience of teaching English as a second language. She has hand-painted all the illustrations which are a superb depiction of life in Tonga - local homes, pigs, chickens and dogs, containers, the reef, brass instruments and even mongooses (some mongooses escaped from a container at the port just before she arrived, and we suspected they were getting into the school kitchen!). The book is brilliant, and I’ve persuaded her to get some more printed, so that we can take a class set over to Tonga with us. If any of you would like a copy, please let me know asap, so that we can make a bulk order. They will be $15 per copy, including postage and packing.
This has been our seventh year of involvement with the school, and each year we get a little older and little more tired – but we continue to love and believe in the school, its principal and its students. We are often asked why we keep returning to Tonga! Our reply is simply that we love them all over there, and if we can make a difference to one student’s life and future, then we feel we have achieved something. We are however seriously trying to work out how we can continue our support for the school without it being so physically and mentally demanding! If anyone knows anyone who might consider taking over some or part of our role, please do let us know.
We are attaching several photos, each with a brief description, to illustrate some of the things we’ve mentioned in this letter. You will find plenty more on our website www.hornsbytrust.org.nz as well as on our Facebook page.
With loving and grateful thanks for your support
Rachel and Simon
PS - a reminder that the Hornsby Trust has donee status, so that donations are eligible for a tax rebate.