Our Sister School GPS Pe'a

Northland School has a sister school in Tonga.  Government Public School (GPS) Pe'a is in the village of Pe'a on the island of Tongatapu.  Northland School established the connection through a Northland School family who originally came from the village.  

In 2014 a Northland family visited the village.  Below are some photos and a report of their visit, which included a donation from Northland School to GPS Pe'a:


   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

We were privileged to visit our sister school in the Kingdom of Tonga during a recent family holiday and experience first hand what a special relationship Northland School enjoys with Government Primary School (GPS) Pea. They are extremely proud of the sister school relationship – GPS Pea is the only school in Tonga to have a sister school in New Zealand – and they are very keen for the links between the two schools to continue and grow.

A chance conversation with Jeremy (Edwards) saw us take delivery of 25kgs of school stationery donated by Northland parents for GPS Pea over the past year. We added some sports equipment generously provided at the last minute by NZ Rugby, the Phoenix soccer club and Wellington Netball. Soon we had three large holdalls to donate to the school and Air New Zealand kindly gave us a free bag to enable us to get it all over to Tonga.

Our visit to the school was organised by former Northland parents Tui and Ruth Toumu’a (some of you will remember their sons Bryan and Joshua) who returned to live in Tonga last year. GPS Pea is in Tui’s village on Tongatapu and it was Tui who set up the original sister school relationship seven years ago. The family now lives in the village of Pea.

What started as a simple delivery job soon escalated into an ‘official’ visit to the school where we found ourselves representing Northland School during a two-hour welcoming ceremony attended by the whole school, parents, Ita Kolomatangi, from the Catholic Church in Tonga, the local newspaper and a representative of the New Zealand High Commission Maria Reynen Clayton. And in that wonderful Wellington way, it turned out that Maria, who is in Tonga for just a few months, actually lives in Northland and her children went to Northland School.

It poured with rain but that did not dampen spirits or the genuinely warm welcome we received from the principal Mele Vave and her staff. They were delighted to have someone come to visit their school so they could show their appreciation and reinforce the fact they would like to strengthen the links – they would love to do a teacher exchange, or have other families come over and visit.

The school’s 115 pupils and six staff welcomed us with songs, dancing, beautiful garlands of flowers (lei) and fresh fruit and cakes. We were treated to a show of traditional dances from around the Pacific – from Tonga to Vanuatu and Hawaii. They are practising for a dance competition for the privilege of dancing for the King’s coronation next year. Afterwards we were invited to speak and we handed over the donated stationery and sports kit.

Following the official ceremony we were shown around the school. The school consists of a few simple classrooms with chalkboards, rows of wooden desk - no whiteboards (interactive or not), no computers (wifi is expensive in Tonga), no hall or communal space. We were shown their ‘library’ – hundreds of school books donated by Northland School some years ago and shipped over to GPS Pea. Unfortunately they don’t have room to have a proper library and the books are stored in the staffroom, along with the lawn mower donated during a previous Northland Church visit. The school is now fundraising to build a separate library so the children can have ready access to the books. The staff expressed their gratitude for all the fundraising and donations from their ‘big sister’ school.

Needless to say it was a real privilege to visit GPS Pea and to learn about Tonga and its rich culture from Tui and Ruth. We encourage you to visit if you ever go to Tonga. Malo ‘aupito, we hope to be back soon.

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