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Tupou College and Tonga College problems require re-culturation

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A change of heart and restoring respect for authority and culture are the only solutions to curing the endemic violence between Tupou College and Tonga College, the president of Tonga Secondary Schools Principal Association said this week.

Fr Aisake Vaisima‘s comments came after an attack on a house in Tofoa by more than 100 students from Tupou college on July 18.

Former Tonga College student Taniela Halahuni,22, is in a critical condition in Vailola hospital. Fellow student Taniela Mahe, 15, is in a stable condition.

A total of 22 Tupou College students are still in police custody. They faces charges ranging from trespassing and housebreaking to causing grievous bodily harm. One student has been charged with attempted arson. A teacher has been charged with “aiding criminal damage.”

Police have charged 124 students with wilful damage and trespassing. They have been released on bail to appear before magistrate court on Monday, July 29.

As a result of the incident the Tongatapu Secondary School Rugby Tournament was postponed. It was confirmed last Friday that it would  be held starting on July 29. About 13 schools take part in the  intercollegiate rugby competition in six grades.

Many people have called for the two schools to be either temporally discontinued or shut permanently.

However, Fr Vaisima, an educational psychologist, said this was not the solution.

“I don’t see deregistration of the two schools nor termination of boarding schools as a solution to this,” he said.

“The problem will still come up in various forms and in various ways since the schools have already a century of history behind them.

“The pathway towards a long-term solution must involve a process of re-culturing of the schools. It has to begin from within the schools and actively supported by school authorities and others other schools and agencies.

“A change of heart is essential in order for this process to start moving.”

Fr Vaisima said improvement had to include restoring a culture of respect for authority in the schools, including the respect between prefects and younger students and among those who were first to enter school and those who came later – Kolisi mu’a and Kolisi mui.”

“These are just examples among others that I believe should include in this re-culturation of the school ethos which will assist in providing a long-term solution to continuing violence among schools in Tonga.”

Fr Vaisima said he feared the effect of calls to halt sporting contacts between the schools as a way to end the crisis.

A former coach of ‘Apifo’ou College’s 1st XV rugby team, he believes that sport is fundamental to students’ education.

“I am taking here for granted that the importance of sports to the human development of our youths is not questioned,” he said.

“The issue at stake here is to eliminate the violence between a small percentage of the schools that have become more common during intercollegiate rugby season, rather than the elimination of the competition.

“The abolition of the competition is the easy way out as far as I am concerned, and it reflects a common cultural pattern of conflict resolutions, whether it is in a family situation, community or school i.e. throwing the dirty water out together with the baby!

(“Ta’ofi pea Tuku ‘Aupito” irrespective of all the good things contained within).

Fr Vaisima said 78% of the schools competing in the rugby tournament would be disadvantaged if it was shut down.

“The only way forward is for the schools concerned to go back to the drawing board and realigned their history, their shared beliefs and practices with the common good of all that befits a Christian and an educated island nation,” he said.

“We cannot conquer the force of evil (violence) by withdrawal, but by doing the good. At the same time school authorities in Tonga will continue its search into how best to conduct an intercollegiate rugby competition that will minimize violence between schools and maximize the potential and talents of our youths.”

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