September 28, 2023

South Pacific Government Leaders Visit Adventist School in Tonga

International delegation reviewed impact of health-promoting initiative on students.

Tracey Bridcutt, Adventist Record
Students demonstrate healthy food choices for the visiting delegation of South Pacific government officials. [Photo: Adventist Record]

Beulah Adventist Primary School in Tonga was in the international spotlight earlier in September when a delegation of South Pacific government leaders paid a visit to see the impact on students of the Health Promoting Schools (HPS) program.

Visitors to the Tongan school included Australia’s assistant mental health minister Emma McBride; New Zealand’s associate health minister Aupito William Sio; and Palau’s health minister Gaafar Uherbelau. They were in Tonga for the 15th Pacific Health Ministers Meeting. 

The HPS project is a partnership between the Tongan Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education and Training, supported by funding from the World Health Organization.

“The aim of the HPS project is to empower school children to develop healthy behaviors and attitudes that are long-lasting,” Elisapesi Manson, education consultant for Adventist Schools in Tonga, said. “The model of HPS in Tonga focuses on diet and physical activities, water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and wellbeing aimed at providing learners with positive student experiences and engagement.”

To monitor progress in each school, educators are using a School-Based Assessment and Monitoring (SBAM) tool, with achievements categorized as gold, silver, or bronze under three priority areas.

From left, Elisapesi Manson, Emma McBride, Aupito William Sio, and Gaafar Uherbelau, during their recent visit to Beulah Adventist Primary School in Tonga. [Photo: Adventist Record]

Manson highlighted the significant influence of health and wellbeing on students’ learning outcomes and underlined the long-standing commitment of Adventist philosophy of education to nurture well-rounded individuals. “Integration of faith and learning in the overall school curriculum that promotes healthy values such as cleanliness and hygiene, plant-based diet, movement and fitness, a drug-free and safe environment is a distinctive requirement of Adventist schools,” Manson said. “Although the HPS goals are not new to Adventist schools, their participation in the HPS program has further strengthened anticipated learning outcomes.”

She added that the journey of excellence with HPS in Adventist schools in Tonga has been transformational over the past three years. “Adventist schools have continued to improve to the gold level of achievement, including this year,” Manson said.

During their visit, the government leaders expressed their appreciation for how Beulah Adventist Primary School is achieving the HPS goals.

In an interview with ABC Radio’s Pacific Beat program, McBride expressed her appreciation for “the real practical difference that these programs are making within local schools.” Vegetable gardens, for example, are “being used in teaching children about healthy eating and nutrition, and those children [are] then taking that back to their families at home.”

Beulah Adventist School is located in Tongatapu, the archipelago’s main island.

The original version of this story was posted by Adventist Record.