10 February 2023
Dear Friends and Supporters of St Andrew's High School
With the 2023 school year already under way, it's time to send you the latest news from St Andrew's High School in Tonga, as well as news of some changes to the Hornsby Trust. You will remember that last year was a difficult one for the school, beginning of course with the volcanic eruption and tsunami in January, and later with the arrival of Covid in Tongatapu. We reported on the effects of these in our last newsletter.
We stayed at the school for a few weeks in September, during which Year 11 and 12 students began camping at the school, so that they could take extra classes in the evenings, to prepare for their external exams. Results for the Tongan 6th Form Certificate over the whole country were disappointing, with only 31% passing. The extended lockdowns due to Covid were part of the problem. St Andrew’s results were complicated, as the 5th Form Certificate, which normally gives entry to 6th form, was abolished last year. Although 37 students sat the exam, only nine of these students were considered to have qualified for entry to the 6th form, and of these, six passed the Sixth Form Certificate exam. Of these six, four were being sponsored by Hornsby Trust supporters. However you interpret these results, there is definitely room for much improvement!
Two major donations are currently in the pipeline for SAHS. The first is a shipment of 50 boxes of children’s and young adults’ books donated by a member of St Peter’s Church, Akaroa. As a specialist teacher of children’s literacy, he has collected over 5,000 high-quality books over his working life. We are not able to take the whole library at the moment, but have packed about a third of it. Thanks to a chance encounter, they will be transported free to Tonga by the Christchurch branch of Rotary, for which we are extremely grateful. Some of the books will go to St Andrew’s, and the remainder will be offered to other schools in Nuku’alofa.
St Andrew’s is fortunate to have Sela Vete as librarian at the moment. She retired from her position as librarian at Tonga High School after 30 years in that role, and in spite of being in her 80’s, she has been completely reorganising the St Andrew’s library over the past year.
At the same time St Andrew’s is to receive another major donation of computer gear from Elmar Gailitis of Aiscorp in Wellington. Aiscorp has been supporting the school for ten years now with generous quantities of hardware and technical expertise. This shipment will replace hardware which has become unserviceable over the years. We had hoped to include this shipment in the Rotary container with the books, but space has run out, and we exploring other ways of getting the equipment to Tonga.
We have heard in the past few days from Losana, the principal, that there is a severe shortage of teachers at the St Andrew's this year. Five key teachers have left, two of them to non-teaching situations in Tonga, and three to move to New Zealand. In order to recruit and retain teachers, St Andrew’s needs to be able to pay more than the current subsistence-level salaries.
To help find more teachers, we are asking whether you might know of anyone with teaching experience who might be prepared to teach at the school for up to a year, or more, with accommodation and a small salary provided. We would be very happy to discuss this with anyone who might be interested.
And now for a piece of very good news about the Hornsby Trust. For some time we have been considering retiring from leading the Trust, and we are delighted to announce that one of our Trustees, Jonathan Austin, and his wife Salote, will take over. We expect to hand over to them gradually in the coming months, but hope to remain involved in some way. Salote has become a Trustee, to replace David Brown of Picton, who retired last year.
Jonathan and Salote are uniquely qualified to lead the Trust for a number of reasons. Jonathan heads the Pacific regional team at the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was NZ High Commissioner in Tonga when we first went to St Andrew’s in 2010, and has been supportive of our work at the school ever since, both as a trustee and friend. His wife Salote is Tongan-born, and has extensive family there. She currently works for MP Jenny Salesa. As well as these connections, Jonathan’s parents had a close friendship with Reg and Mary Hornsby, after whom the Trust is named. We can see many good things coming out of their increased connection with the Trust, and are grateful for their willingness to become more involved.
Jonathan and Salote have written as follows - "We were honoured when Simon and Rachel accepted our offer to become more involved in the running of the Trust. With your support they and the Trust have achieved so much, benefitting hundreds of young people. We were both teachers in our previous careers so have a strong belief in the foundational importance of education. This, combined with our connections to Tonga and the Hornsbys, provides strong motivation for our engagement. We recognise there are many deserving charitable causes but we hope you will continue to share our passion for the Trust's work, including because every dollar of your support goes directly to the school and its students. Malo 'aupito: thank you for your help."
This year we hope to maintain or increase the present level of financial support which the Trust gives the students at St Andrew’s, and to the school itself. This will involve paying school fees for students whose families cannot afford them (last year there were 80 students supported in this way) and making fees grants to ex-students who are undertaking tertiary study (last year 7 students were supported with grants of $1,000-2,000 each).
Last year other donated funds were used to buy fine arts materials, computer equipment and textbooks for the school, and to support school families who had suffered extreme hardship as a result of the tsunami. Some funds also went to support Chloe Church, a young nursing student from Akaroa, who spent a month working at the school as well as helping at the Mission Clinic late last year.
We thank those of you who donated last year, both student fees and regular payments, and we hope that you will feel able to support the school again this year. It would be helpful if we could receive donations for fees by the end of February, so that money can be sent to Tonga in time to meet the fees deadline of 31 March. As you may remember, fees paid by 31 March attract a substantial subsidy from the Tongan Government. Fees increased last year to $260 for Junior Students and $310 for Senior Students.
Here are the details for making a donation:
Bank account: ANZ 06 0837 0302748 00. Please put your name in the reference box. If you are donating for the first time, please email us your name and address, so that we can thank you and arrange for a receipt for tax purposes to be sent to you. We love to know who our friends are, and promise we will not bombard you with requests! If you would like your donation used for a particular purpose, please let us know in your email.
Those of you who live in or near Auckland may be interested to know that Kaveinga Vaka will be giving a recital at St Andrew’s Anglican Church in Epsom on Sunday 26 March at 3 pm. Kaveinga is an ex-St Andrew’s student and trumpet player studying for a music degree at Auckland University, on a scholarship from the Diocese of Polynesia, and supported by the Hornsby Trust. He received excellent grades in conducting and composition last year, as well as for his trumpet performance. The recital is being presented by St Andrew’s Arts, and will be followed by afternoon tea. Entrance is by Koha, to support Kaveinga in his continuing studies.
St Andrew’s Epsom was the first church in NZ to begin supporting our work in Tonga, right back in 2010, and they have continued to support us ever since. A team of volunteers from the church, several with teaching experience, led initially by Neil Shroff and now by John Langley, has given the school considerable assistance, making a number of visits over the years. They are currently supporting the new principal Losana, and will be bringing her and two other staff members over to observe in Auckland schools during the first part of the year.
Thank you for supporting St Andrew’s High School. Your support has made a significant difference to many young people’s lives over recent years.
‘Ofa atu (with love)
Simon and Rachel