We are working to get computers to the Niuatoputapu (Niu-a-topu-tapu) District High School on a remote island in northern Tonga. This one high school serves two islands in the northernmost group of Tonga, and at this writing is responsible for providing a well-rounded modern education to 113 charming and hard-working students Form 1 – Form 7 (grades 7-13). Some of these students must leave their home island and family to attend this school, which is just one example of the importance Tongans place on education. Once there, these students work really hard to learn English so they can take the government placement exams in both Tongan and English. These exams decide whether they can attend university, whether they will get scholarships, and what skilled careers are open to them. I have taught high school in California and Hawaii, and I was extremely impressed with the dedication of the students and the teachers at this remote school.
Niuatoputapu was devastated in 2009 by a tsunami that sent a 17-meter wave over much of the flat land on the island, which is where most people live and farm. Thanks to the quick-thinking of the locals only nine people lost their lives, but almost everyone lost their home. The high school, along with most housing, has been rebuilt up the hillside to be safer from future tsunamis. The government has worked hard and used international aid to help rebuild the three villages and infrastructure on this remote island, but computers for the high school have necessarily been deprioritized in the face of such a disaster. At the same time, their students must compete with the rest of the country for entrance and scholarships to higher education, and computer skills are part of the standardized tests. The USA was one of the few world powers who has not donated an aid project to help this island rebuild, and this need for modern technology seems like a perfect way for us Americans to support our world community.
Niuatoputapu High School has a dedicated computer lab where students learn Microsoft Office applications, programming and web design. There is a technology teacher assigned by the central government, but when we arrived only three of the aging computers worked. Paul pieced together two more working desktops from the cupboards of ten- to twenty-year-old towers. The Australian government is in the process of installing solar electricity to run the entire island (right now only a few buildings have generators), at which point the school will be able to get satellite internet at least some of the time. With a classroom set of fully functional computers all the high school students will be able to learn the modern computing skills that will allow them to compete on a level playing field for scholarships to university. These students use their educational opportunities to bring practical ideas in sustainable agriculture and infrastructure back to strengthen their beautiful traditional Tongan community.
Your financial contribution will help to buy 20 new and lightly-used laptops, prepared with the appropriate programming for the Tonga high school curriculum. A New Zealand computer shop has offered to supply the computers for less than $200 each, and Paul will load the programming before they go. Please read the most recent update for details on this.
We (Bonnie and Paul) had the pleasure of visiting Niuatoputapu while on a sailing journey (which you can see at romanystar.com ). We are a couple of cruising sailors originally from California, and you can read more about us on our website. We are working with the sailing community to send the laptops in May 2018 with yachts that are visiting these remote islands (which will save us shipping costs and allow us to buy more computers!).
Thank you for helping these sweet, hard-working children to learn 21st century skills while maintaining their valuable cultural roots!