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Tonga needs computers and IT

Nuku'alofa, Tonga


Brad L. Brasseur's excellent reminder (Education  Antidote...15 Jan 2016) pays a valuable testimony to my analysis of the education state of affairs after my first year of teaching, and experience in the Tongan media last year, 2015.

The pressing need in Tonga's education system today is the lack of available computer and Information Technology (IT) in the Kingdom, particularly with the Internet. This indispensable modern educational tool is still the privilege of the elite and the more prosperous segment of the populace.

Even with the computer assistance (5 laptops) from "One Laptop Per Child" (OLPC) that I brought with me did not do much good because of the Internet unavailability. While school children are eager to immerse themselves in learning in this fast-pace "Information Age," government leaders and policymakers were pre-occypied with political entanglements. 

Local Internet Needs

Liahona High School comes closest to the level of computer literacy we would expect in today's classroom. With eight computer labs, they are barely scratching the surface. But they're upgrading to manatory computerized classrooms in 2016, according to Mr. Folau Kioa, vice-president of LDS Pacfic School System. The outer islands will be retofitted with the availability of Internet, Mr. Kioa said in an interview with this writer.

Computer labs are also the level at the University of South Pacific-Tonga Campus. Likewise, Internet Cafes are available in Nuku'alofa, and some villages, but at highway-robbery prices. Meanwhile, Government is busy talking about the filthy contents of the Internet, how to "censor"  and restrict access to it. Other schools have computers but without Internet they're useless.

At Tonga Internationa Academy, the laptops from OLPC were useless without the Internet. While we prep students with computer-literacy skills - do home works online; do research online, etc., - the cost of Internet is onerously prohibitive. We wish to build IT courses to our curriculum but the Internet problem is a major barrier.   

Tonga is a small population in terms of Internet access. If Government could save money from high-level corruptions, they can very well pay for free Internet costs on the main islands. An example: They paid TO$150,000 to a friend of the Prime Minister to do some controversial computer-related consulting work for the Department of Education.

Other money-wasting schemes in 2015 alone would have paid for free internet for many school children.  Tonga can provide the perfect antidotes for its needs in education to eradicate poverty in the Kingdom. The benefits from free Internet would outlive the disadvantages.

Sione A. Mokofisi, MBA

Director English-Journalism & Business IT