Dear Friends and Supporters of St Andrew’s High School in Nuku’alofa
We arrived back from Tonga at the beginning of August, but have been tied up since then in
Christchurch helping Simon’s mother move into a new rest home and emptying her former home. We
are now home in Akaroa, and have the time to reflect on our visit to St Andrew’s High School last
month, and to bring you up to date with things there.
We hope that by now, some of you will have received letters and photos from the students whose fees
you have paid this year. We know that it has meant a great deal to them and to their families to have
your support. Some of them were thrilled to receive a photo from you! We described in our newsletter last month the damage which had been done to the school buildings, as well as mentioning that more than 70% of the students’ homes were badly damaged if not demolished by Cyclone Gita (picture below shows damage to the roof of a store-room.)
We were able to carry out some small-scale repairs ourselves, (picture below shows Rachel replacing broken louvre glass in a classroom, after cutting it to size herself!) but we were overjoyed when Jack Brinkman from Chartwell Co-operating Parish in Hamilton responded to our newsletter, offering to come over with a group of men from the parish to help with the work. They are due to arrive in Tonga around now, and will be there for two weeks. We are so grateful for their willingness to carry out this work. There has been a chronic shortage of builders available in Tonga to do repairs following the cyclone, as so
many of them are working in NZ where they are better paid. Your donations will augment money from the Tongan government to be used in buying materials to repair roofs, classroom doors, windows etc.
One of the Hamilton volunteers is a mechanic, and has promised to see what he can do with the school truck, as well as our ‘volunteer’ car, both of which have kept going on a wing and a prayer!
We were serenaded day and night throughout our month at St Andrew’s by the school band as they practised for the Interschool Brass Band Contest, which was held last week. All their hard work paid off. Having been moved up to the A grade after last year’s medal-winning performances, they won three gold and one silver award for their four performances this year, and were moved into the “A plus” grade along with one other school band, which presumably means they are now one of the top two school brass bands in Tonga! What a journey they have been on under Kaveinga Vaka these last few years! (Picture below shows Kaveinga and the band rehearsing in the school hall).
To see excerpts of their contest performances, please go to the Hornsby Trust Facebook page.
How the band has managed to reach these heights has been almost miraculous, as not only are there a lot of very young students in the band, but they are playing on old and worn-out instruments, some of which are in dire need of repair. We even discovered one poor little Year 7 boy trying to play his cornet without a mouthpiece (a problem since rectified)!
The exciting news is that the band will tour NZ for three weeks next year, from late April, to raise funds to buy new instruments! They did this many years ago, before our time, and it is high time they did it again. We have offered to help with arrangements for their tour, and hope that you will be able to attend one of their performances. If you would be happy to billet a student or two, or could offer a large venue for a performance at no charge, we would love to hear from you!
In other exciting news, we are underway with a proposal with VSA to provide a TESOL teacher trainer to work at St Andrew’s next year. The idea is that they will be based at St Andrew’s, and train an ESOL teacher from each of five or six of the mission schools, including St A’s. This was made possible through a chance encounter between Rachel and two VSA workers at a supermarket in Nuku’alofa. They introduced us to the regional manager who happened to visit Tonga while we were there. (Picture above shows VSA regional manager Diane Thorne-George, centre, meeting with DP Paku Tausinga, left in black, and Principal Mo’unga Maka, right in black). There is good support for the proposal both from VSA and also the NZ High Commission. We hope it will go a long way towards improving the standard of spoken and written English among St Andrew’s and other mission school students.
We were very pleased to hear from the principal, Mo’unga Maka, that St Andrew’s results in external exams have been steadily rising since 2013, with a slight dip in 2015 when the Education Ministry changed to recording only raw scores. The data also shows that St Andrew’s internal assessment standards are very accurate when compared with those of external assessors.
On a personal note, we finally managed, after nine years of visits, to take a day-trip to swim with the whales. As we’d sent so many of our volunteers to the tour company over the years, they gave us a special two-for-one deal so we decided it was time to do it! We are older and wiser as a result – tossing around in a small boat in heavy seas with whales for eight hours is
not for the faint-hearted! It was a little too much like Moby Dick for our liking.
Thank you all for your support for us and for the school through your prayers, thoughts and donations. We hope that we will have the opportunity to thank you personally in the coming months.
With love and blessings from us both,
Simon and Rachel
The Hornsby Trust