2022 was a very mixed year for St Andrew’s High School in Nuku’alofa. It began with the major eruption, on January 15th, of the volcano Hunga Tonga - Hunga Hapai, situated only 65 km from Tongatapu. This was followed by a tsunami which wiped out many coastal settlements in Tonga. Considering the fact that this was one of the largest eruptions in modern history, it was a miracle that there was very little loss of life, and for the school, at least, not much damage. The tsunami did not reach far enough inland to threaten the school, and the thick coating of ash deposited by the eruption was quickly cleaned off school buildings and grounds.

The downstream effect of all this was, firstly, severe hardship for a number of school families whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed. Secondly, the Covid19 infection breached the strict quarantine which Tonga had imposed, as many ships carrying aid docked in Nuku’alofa’s harbor. Once Covid was in the community, the resulting lockdowns meant that St Andrew’s was not able to start teaching properly until May.

This year, because of our generous donors, the Hornsby Trust was able to pay the fees of 81 needy school students as well as 7 tertiary students. We also sent money for desktop computers mid-year when there was an urgent need. During our visit, your donations paid for laptop computers for HODs, a large quantity of text books, and Visual Arts and Home Economics resources. Before we left, we handed over to the Industrial Arts department a large quantity of tools which have built up over the ten years of visits by volunteer groups.

Some donors specifically wanted to help school families who had suffered from the effects of the tsunami, and we were able to give money to three families on your behalf.

It was good to return to St Andrew’s in September after three years’ absence. We were most grateful to the new Principal Losana, the chaplain Sr Fehoko CSN, the secretary ‘Naite, and the staff and board members for their warm welcome.

The school has had a fresh start this year under its new Principal, Losana Latu, who comes with a wide background in education, including being DP of Tonga High School, holding positions in the Ministry of Education and at the Teachers’ College. Her husband Tony was principal of Tonga College for many years, and continues to work in the Ministry of Education. We greatly appreciated the easy and efficient relationship we established with Losana right from the start. We were also very pleased to find her and her family living in the Principal’s House in the school grounds, which our volunteers refurbished in 2013, but had not been lived in by a Principal since then.

We were also pleased to meet two new board members who are prepared to bring their professional and business skills to bear on the management of the school. Both ex-students, they are very committed to the welfare of the school. It was heartening to be invited to brief them on the work of the Trust, and to discuss how we might best help the school.

This year the Hornsby Trust has been supporting seven tertiary students, and it was good to meet nearly all of them. We found them bright, positive and excited about their studies and future. Four are at the University of the South Pacific, two at Tupou Tertiary Institute, and one at the Teachers’ College. We feel that the tertiary scholarships are a very worthwhile aspect of the Trust’s activities. They are an excellent follow-up to the fees grants which support the most vulnerable students at school, regardless of academic standard.

Another ex-student who continues to do well is Kaveinga Vaka, now in the second year of his music degree at Auckland University, funded by a scholarship from the Diocese of Polynesia. We called in to see him and his wife Fila and three year old daughter Lupe (left) in their St John’s College flat in Meadowbank last week. His end-of-year grades were most impressive.

However, there were some disappointing statistics after three difficult years. The roll was low – approximately 250 (compared with 450 in 2019). Of the teachers who were at the school in 2019 there are only four still there. This turnover means that virtually all the professional development done in previous years has been lost to the school. It is also a very de-stabilising influence on the school as a whole.

When we visited St Andrew’s in September, there was virtually no equipment or material remaining for Fine Arts, Home Economics, or Music, though the kitchen built by volunteers in 2013 still has its cooking stoves. The complete set of brass band instruments is either missing or damaged beyond repair. While some of the classroom display-boards have bright displays on them, others are gone or damaged. The computer network supplied and installed in 2018 is severely compromised through mis-management.

In response to this, as already mentioned, donated funds from the Hornsby Trust were used to provide Visual Arts and Home Economics equipment, laptop computers for HODs, extra tools for the Industrial Arts workshop, and textbooks. It was a big spend of Trust funds, but we felt that if Losana was to bring the school back up to its previous standards, she needed the school to be reasonably well-equipped. We received assurances from her that security would be tightened around school equipment and buildings.

We would like to acknowledge with thanks the support of our fellow Trustees, and the following organisations who have donated time, goods and money to the Trust over the year:

Generate Accounting and its Managing Director Angus Ogilvie
The Welstor Trust
Aiscorp and its Managing Director Elmar Gailitis
The Reformed Church of New Zealand
St Andrew’s Parish, Epsom
The Combined Church of Akaroa Banks Peninsula

We acknowledge with gratitude also the many individuals who have contributed to the Trust over the 2022 year. Your generosity has made a difference in the lives of many young Tongans, and is continuing to do so. Thank you.

The future for St Andrew’s High School is challenging. In 2023 the roll is still falling, key teachers have left the school (and the profession), and government support is still slow in arriving. The Hornsby Trust is needed more than ever.

Simon and Rachel Tipping
Managing Trustees