Newington’s 8th Tonga Tour
Our 8th Annual Tour to Tupou College took place during our the last school holidays. Mr David Roberts, Ms Rebecca Grubb, Mr Lukes Gilles and Mr Cameron Quince were joined by an eclectic group of Newington boys from Year 9 to Year 12. Everyone participating in the tour signed up with a purpose: to spend nine days at Tupou College, Tonga.
Our students all signed up as Service Learning participants and seven boys toured with the sole reason of serving their brothers at Tupou College. Other attendees included music participants and the Under 15 Rugby boys who had the opportunity to train and play both alongside and against their new found friends at Tupou College.
For the staff, this tour was about exchanging ideas. Mr Roberts worked with Senior Tupou College staff, including the principal Reverend Atiola, Reverend Fonua and Reverend Paongo on improving options and content of the subjects offered. Being Mr Robert’s first trip to Tonga, he said he had heard much about the school, but he had to be there to understand the rhythms of the day at Tupou College in order to better advise them on timetable constraints and how a new curriculum could be successfully implemented.
In the music rooms, Ms Grubb worked with the Head of Music, Eloni Nau and their newly formed Stage Band and various other music groups and programs within the Music Department. She found the experience particularly memorable because of the strong connection music has to community and tradition in Tonga.
“We learnt that the beautiful and intricate nature of the Tongan language has been preserved through singing which involves everybody, every day in powerful, impromptu performances of hymns and songs. Invited to sit in at Tupou’s outstanding ensembles, we observed that the students approach their music making with discipline, passion and respect, rehearsing for long hours aiming for perfection”.
With Rugby being a big part of both Newington and Tupou College, it was only natural for Mr Giles to run a number of coaching clinics for staff and students while abroad.
“What has really stayed with all of us is the goodwill of the Tupou college community; that a side so ferocious on the sports field define themselves not through these endeavours but through compassion, humility and charity with everyone they meet. This I hope impacted and remains with the touring party for the rest of their lives as a lesson that regardless of the means of our circumstances we can all be good people”.
Meanwhile, Mr Quince worked with the Technology Department to improve the delivery of their Graphics, Construction and Industrial Technology classes.
Our touring party arrived at 1:30 AM on Thursday, 6 July to be greeted by the Principal and numerous teaching staff and students, despite it being the middle of their school holidays.
Our first few days were spent unloading our tenth 20ft shipping container, painting a newly built house for a soon to be appointed staff member, and our music and rugby tourists getting to know their new friends and colleagues
We spent Friday night catching up with families of Tongan Old Boys at our annual reunion dinner at Vakaloa Resort including the Head of the Tongan Branch of the ONU, Steve Finau ON 1966 and many other Newington parents. Our boys enjoyed some traditional and not-so traditional dances and also took to the stage themselves to help entertain the local crowd.
We were fortunate enough to join the Tupou College boys at the international rugby fixture that was a World Cup Qualifying match. Ben Volavola ON 2010 played #10 for Fiji and helped steer his side to victory over Tonga in a match that was sold out. Fiji won by 14 to 10.
Our Sunday Chapel Service was a great introduction to the Methodist culture of Tupou College which was followed on by a Tonga feast and afternoon of rest.
Sunday night provided four of our musicians and Ms Grubb with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform for The Queen of Tonga at the Heilala Festival in front of a crowd of 8,000 which was to be streamed live online alongside the Tupou College Band and Choir.
You can see the streamed performance here: https://blogs.newington.nsw.edu.au/tupou/.
When school resumed in Tonga for the local boys, it did for our boys too who attended lessons alongside their Tupou College brothers for the next three days. It was a unique chance for them to live as a Tongan and a good way to end what was an enriching whirlwind tour.