Sunday, September 17, 2017

70th Birthday Bash

Liahona High School celebrated its 70th Birthday at this campus.  The first building on campus was built from cinder-brick which was made by a machine the LDS Church brought here specifically for that purpose a little over 70 years ago.  Since then, cinder-brick construction has become extremely popular and common as it is so good at withstanding the frequent severe storms that come to Tonga.  Also, it does not rot in the high humidity like wood construction.  I also understand that an LDS Church sponsored school had its first presence at the site where Camp Makeke now resides and was started as early as 1926.

They had many events to celebrate the day and things got kicked-off in great fashion with a parade of students and local LDS Church sponsored schools from around the main island.    The total distance of the parade was only about 1/4 of a mile as they marched from in front of the school through the school grounds and back to the large sports field behind the school where additional activities followed.

The first parade entry was the Liahona HS band which we get to hear quite often as they typically practice outside about 200 feet from our apartment.  We took several photos of the parade which consisted of a few cars with balloons but mostly students from each school marching in a group displaying signs with different values  printed on them.  They were all smiles as they proudly passed by us ... all students decked out in the green and white that signifies the LDS sponsored secondary schools in Tonga.

The start of the parade.  We had many people just walking along
side of the parade entries.  I stopped this one too soon so I have one
more short clip of the band playing. 

This is the Liahona High School band. 
They were the only school that had a band in the parade

Be Prayerful
I thought you might enjoy learning a little bit about the education system here in Tonga.  I have interspersed photos of the parade throughout.  I have gotten a few conflicting stories about some of the information below so I went with the consensus or what I thought was the best source.  Some of the photos are fun to click on and look at the details.  These students are so proud of their heritage and their schools.

Be True
Tongan, is a dialect of Polynesian; English, which is taught as a second language in schools, is used mainly for business (and communicating with older palangi missionaries). Wesleyan missionaries introduced formal education into Tonga in 1826, followed by Latter-day Saints, Roman Catholic and other Protestant denominations beginning in 1846. The educational system still reflects this colonial/missionary history.

School values
Primary education has been compulsory in Tonga since 1876 and is free for students between the ages of 6 and 14. Education consists of six years at the primary level, three years at the junior secondary level, and three years at the senior secondary level. The first nine years are compulsory.

Liahona student waving for the camera
Levels 1-6 (primary school) are the equivalent of grades 1-6 in the U.S. (correspondingly). Forms 1-6 (secondary school) correspond with grades 7-12 in the U.S. and after form 3 (our 9th grade equivalent) students have to apply and be accepted to forms 4, 5, and 6 (grades 10,11, and 12).  Form 7 is an additional year for students that need it to graduate and it can be taken more than once but students must apply each time and be accepted to attend.   English as a second language is one of the required classes for all.

See the lady laying in the back of the bike cart (green dress).
The secondary schools are mostly sponsored by different Churches.  After secondary school, you can also apply for 2 years of tertiary school which can be technical or vocational colleges.  Churches also sponsor the majority of these schools which include: the Institute for Vocational Education and Training, the Polytechnical Institute, the Teacher's College, Queen Salote School of Nursing, and the Tonga Police Training School.

The Government's Ministry of Education oversees the management of government schools in all provinces, including primary, secondary, and tertiary schools. In addition, it manages the adherence of private schools to the national laws on education and the National Examination programs.  Annual examinations are required for placement of primary school students into government schools; the Tonga School Certificate is the national examination for secondary school students at their fifth year, and the Pacific Senior Secondary Certificate examination is given at the sixth year. Examinations and assessments are developed internally or delegated to an external source, but they are monitored and coordinated by this unit of government. Examinations are set in the English language with a strong emphasis at the college level on maintaining knowledge and skills of the Tongan culture.

The missionaries are all well with a few minor health issues.  We received 17 new missionaries two weeks ago and as is usual there are a few that are working through the adjustment of living in Tonga and being on a mission.  The mission president is great to work with as he really cares about his missionaries and works hard to get them in situations where they can succeed.  Lepeka is always on top of everything and always follows through.  We pray constantly for our missionaries to be safe and healthy and that we will be guided and directed in all we do related to their health and well being.  It can be a difficult adjustment as they get used to the culture, living conditions and language.  We develop an instant love for these missionaries.

I'm still working to initiate some conversation around a private Church network in Tonga and I think I am starting to make some headway (at least to have the conversation with Network Engineers in SLC).  It may still stall but I'm hoping to plant a seed if nothing else.  If we can even get a small pilot approved it would be great and I think people would be surprised at what could happen here.  I keep hoping and praying with an understanding that change can be very slow sometimes and perhaps there are reasons unknown to me that would prevent this from happening.  As long as I can present to the right people I have faith that the decision will be the right one and I can live with that either way.

This weeks blog is fairly short but I have added a few more random photos and more of the parade.

Lepeka at the end of the parade.  She is such a joy to be with 24x7.

Waiting patiently in the staging area prior to the parade.
The parade route travels down the road that goes in from of our apartment.

This is the large field behind the school buildings.
We had to leave for a meeting before these festivities started.

One of our famous security guards here at Liahona.
He always smiles and waves at us as we drive in and out.
He really is normal size, but seems to have shrunk to the
'fun size'  for this photo.  Camera angle is looking down
from a small hill.

The last entry in the parade ... or maybe just following behind after taking photos.

Waves breaking at the blow-holes in Houma.  The level of the tide
isn't the best for the blow-holes but the breaking waves were fun to see.
I think I am stuck in slo-mo on my iPhone videos, I'll start checking closer
but I think it is fun to see the slo-mo on this one so I posted it.

They pruned??? the avocado tree behind our apartment.
I don't think it is going to produce any avocados this year.