April 21, 2018

Tonga Students Face Tough Conditions After Tropical Cyclone

Tracey Bridcutt, Adventist Record

Tents have become makeshift classrooms for students at Adventist schools in Tonga while the schools await rebuilding work after Tropical Cyclone Gita struck in February 2018.

Beulah College, Beulah Primary, and Hilliard Memorial Adventist schools were all extensively damaged by the category-4 cyclone.

Trans-Pacific Union Mission associate education director Mele Vaihola, who recently visited the schools, found that the teachers and students were going about their work in extremely tough conditions.

“During hot days the tents are very hot, and students and teachers find it very uncomfortable, and learning is very disturbed,” she said. “And during rainy days, the tents are flooded, and no learning can be conducted. They end up not having school for that day.”

At Hilliard Memorial School seven classrooms were badly damaged. The school is using four tents, the old Mission offices, and the church hall for classes.

Beulah College, which is normally a boarding school, has been operating as a day school as a result of the cyclone.

“But due to the urgent need from parents and teachers’ concerns for the students needing to catch up on the curriculum, the administration is working to bring in the senior students to resume the boarding school program in the next few days,” Vaihola said. “The Mission is awaiting insurance and government assistance toward rebuilding the schools. There is some positive feedback, and hopefully, in a few months’ time, the schools will return to their normal programs.”

Vaihola said the impact on the schools did not only affect infrastructure but was also emotionally draining for both staff and students. She thanked the education director Piula Fukofuka, principals, and staff “for all the good work that you are doing to ensure our schools are distinctive Adventist schools” despite all the challenges they have faced.

“Let’s continue to remember Tonga Mission schools in our prayers,” she said.