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Tonga leaders need cool heads and calm hearts

Salt Lake City, Utah, USA


Such unwise emotional consideration by leaders to close two legacy high schools in Tonga, (Boys boarding schools may have to close ... July 24, 2013), needs "cool heads" and "calm hearts". 

1. With all due respects, Rev. Dr. Tevita Havea's leadership role in restoring trust and respect for Tupou College, and Tonga College for that matter, should not include punishing the majority of good students, and their parents. 

The schools do, however, need objective evaluation. 

  • Why have not the school administrations solve this problem after all these years?
  • Did they bury their heads in the sand and hope the problem would go away?
  • Do the schools' leadership teams at both institutions deserve to continue in their jobs?
  • A "cleaning-house" firing of all administrators may seem to be in order?
  • Why have they not conducted a scientific study to help solve the problem?
  • Relying on religious and cultural approaches have not worked all these years.

2. Closing Tonga's two prominent high schools will have bad social repercussions. The shock waves from the wake of such irresponsible actions will draw negatively on the youth population of Tonga.

  • Consider the consequences and undue pressure being forced on an unprepared society.
  • Does the majority of good student bodies, and their parents, deserve the unexpected inconvenience? 
  • What responsibilities do the schools have to provide education for society, which was granted by government?
  • Will the government consider such closures a dis-service to society?
  • What "opportunity costs" will bear upon the economy, education, morality, and cultural health of the country? 

3.  Agitators who are calling for the closure of these schools are reacting emotionally rather than using rational and wise decisions. 

  • These are irresponsible "gatekeepers" who think they have all the answers.
  • Their solutions to every problem is to mete out punishment to accused parties.
  • They approach every problem emotionally, and without investigations, or research.
  • Their reasons for lashing out at the entire school, rather than the administrators, are not based on facts.

'Ofa atu,

Sione Ake-mei-hakau Mokofisi

samokofisi [at] email [dot] phoenix [dot] edu


Cool heads and calm hearts will not be enough to see us through to a better end-point. Ultimately, government - which has the responsibility for educating our population, should take action. Which is why I'm calling for an independent commission of enquiry to act on the information we now have - and to take on board the questions raised by Lo'au Akemeihakau in its role as the next piece of "work to be done". The failure of the Tongan Principals Committee "to act" for several years when they were tasked with the job is probably due to their wish to keep their heads "cool" and their hearts "unflustered" by the need to act. Worse still is that in their failure, the supervising authorities also failed to make them accountable - and so it goes up and down the chain of accountabilities. Legal culpabilities will likely fall on the students and the odd teacher from time to time but there's reluctance to get to the "core" of the issue and then do something different. Our education system is failing our future citizens. Two institutions with a long history of contributing to the enlightenment of our citizens have instead contributed a growing number of social misfits and fewer and fewer scholars of note. Sending another hundred or so to court and make them victims of of a failing system and the court system is only a small part of the huge task of seeking a more permanent fix. Untenable as it may be to some - and our politicians will always throw up the financial costs as a reason to "not act" - anything less than a good hard look at our education system in the light of what we have witnessed for the last 50 years or so won't do it. A commission to take a good look at the future of our educational system will unearth many of the potential troublespots that we will face in the years to come - but it will also identify the opportunities hitherto untouched by a wish to put a thermometer to the head and a pacemaker to the chest.

I have been accused of knowing nothing about education in Tonga and I admit I don't know it all but I'm not totally out of touch and has been and will forever be a product of the system as it was then. It is no longer what it used to be.

Sefita Hao'uli
Lotofoa FWC Primary School - early 1950s
Pangai GPS - late 1950s
THS - 1960s
'Atenisi Institute - student and teacher early 1970s