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Education for export, a new perspective

Melbourne, Australia

Editor,

My fellow Tongans.

The Tongan Government should encourage Education as an Export Commodity.

The government should rethink its education and migration policy with a view to opening up and encouraging, even helping those with higher tertiary qualificatoins to migrate to places like NZ, Australia and the US.

This might be a task for the proposed new Department for Tongans Abroad.

While the people are currently free to seek migration on their own, there is a reluctance to do so, and certainly not encouraged by the govt. The govt. appears to think that the so called …‘brain drain…’ is bad for the country. Because of this there is an element of guilt, unpatriotism, ungratefulness, desertion of Tonga, and so on amongst Tongans who have left or are wanting to leave.

I want to suggest that on the contrary, this will be good for the country now and in the longer term.

Tonga is not be able to sustain itself now and will not be able to do so in the longer term either.

There is not enough land to go round and the population growth is alarmingly high. Any social scientist will tell you that this is a breeding ground for social unrest, high unemployment, rising crime rate, and the potential for serious violence etc. Evidence of this is with us already.

Everytime I visit Tonga I am reminded by what I see. Between the villages where it used to be bush, are now either dotted with or full of houses. Some ‘‘api kolos now have two or three dwellings where siblings (famili) live. This is because there is nowhere else to go. Some villages are now all joined together. Houses are beginning to show themselves up in the bush allotments that still remain.

This is obviously a manifestation of over population.

So tell me, all you fine economists of Tonga. Do we continue to cultivate manioke and kumala on a fast disappearing piece of ‘api ‘‘uta or should we crawl out of our comfort zones and start to think outside the square.

Education for Tongans should be of the highest priority. I am not suggesting that that is not the case now, but we should be focussed even more on this and especially for this new suggetion on “‘Education for Export”.

Right now the Australian govt’’s policy on education visas and migration is very receptive to overseas students who have trained here and who would want to stay on permanently. Once graduated, you apply for a permanent residentship visa. When accepted, you are given a three years visa, full on with everything available to you. After your three years you may apply for citizenship or just stay on as before. Now, what can be better than that. This is a terrific opportunity that Tonga should take maximum advantage of. The Tongan population here in Australia is largely made up of poorly educated people who have found their way here one way or another and “‘hoko loufau”’ overstayed hoping for some amnesty.…

We can get around this by moving in the direction I am advocating above. Besides, as an occassional intepretor in the courts, I would not mind meeting an occassional lawyer or such, instead of only the accused for alleged robbery, overstaying, assault and so on.

It gives me joy sometimes to imagine walking to my local drinking hole and lo and behold I find a Tongan professor, lawyer, engineer, architect, doctor or journalist there, but it was never to be.

Education in Tonga is very high and I’m proud of what the nation has achieved and the long sightedness that His Majesty has implimented in this area and especially in the founding of Tonga High School which spearheaded the push in modern education.

Now that there is more than enough to run the joint, it is now time to encourage them to go forth and find a good living for themselves somewhere else. My friends, there comes a time when we need to let go of mother’’s apron and go it ourselves.

A driver with a BA in Tonga is not required. Help him to come to Australia and find himself a better life. If he stays in Tonga he will be asking his older brother if he could build a house for him and his wife in their father’’s ‘‘api which might already have two houses there already.

Being a Tongan overseas is and will continue to be a good thing/blessing for Tonga. This was highlighted recently by our new PM in announcing the new Department for Tongans Abroad. This is in recognition of the fact that some 40% of the economy is supported from overseas. This 40% is the sweat of mostly factory workers, fruit pickers, labourers and overstayers who save and send their money to help their families in Tonga. If they were middle or high income earners, their contributions might be expected to be higher. But even if it did not rise, they will be able to buy better cars, better homes, better education for their children, and wouldn…’t that be nice.

And at the end of the day, a better outcome for all.

[Imagine what will happen to the Tongan economy if overseas remittances were to dry up tomorrow. Our new PM will not be able to save us. We will need Maui Fusifonua to fish the joint up again from the bottom of the Pacific again.]

And best of all, they are not in Tonga to compete with the rest, for the dux of THS etc And if they did, will most likely take the lion…’s share of all scholarships offered as well as other opportunities. What will become of the rest who are there with lesser means and education.

I would like to see Tonga not only as the best educated nation in our vicinity (as currently is the case) but also the biggest exporter of tertiary qualified professionals to Australia, NZ and the US.

Let us get out of this “‘brain drain”’ mentality as being bad for the nation. Let us harness Education for Export as part of our broader socio/economic strategy.

By all means we needs some to stay to row the boat in Tonga.

In all sincerity I’’ll put it like this : If the PM says to me that the country needs me, then I will willingly oblige and return to Tonga. And I think that most if not all Tongans will do likewise.

The rest: mou o ki muli ‘‘o kumi ha‘’a mou mo‘’ui.

Till next time,

Kind Regards,

Sione Tapani Mangisi.

johntmangisi [at] hotmail [dot] com