BTI has been involved in Teacher Education in Tonga for quite a few years now. Historically, Tongan teachers have been dedicated and experienced volunteers, but have lacked formal training. BTI developed a Teacher Education programme in Tonga in response to approaches by the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga and has seen several cohorts of students through the programme so far.
At this year’s graduation, we were thrilled to welcome a special cohort of 11 graduates of BTI’s Diploma of Teaching Studies (Tonga) programme, who travelled to New Zealand especially for the event. They added such richness and colour to our celebration and it was wonderful to have them with us.
We spoke with graduate Sepuloni Folau, who was very happy to be in Tauranga for the occasion. Sepuloni is a minister, a teacher with 23 years experience and Principal of the Free Wesleyan Church Primary School at Nuku’alofa – a school with a roll of 445 children aged 5 -10.
His strong faith shines through in his words and smile, especially as he talked about his sense of God’s calling and guidance throughout his training. “This is my first time to have a formal diploma of teaching. I feel happy and glad. I know that God had guided me through this study and I know that there is a call for me to work and to fulfill what our Jesus Christ has given his life for. Saying, ‘Sepuloni, this little child here is a sheep of mine. I didn’t buy it with money or gold or silver but with my blood. I give it you with my trust…”
When we discussed his reasons for undertaking study with BTI, Sipulone said he believed that the Bible has been missing from the curriculum in Tonga. He welcomed the opportunity to study teaching from a Christian perspective. Sepuloni was chosen to be the class president for his cohort of teachers training in the BTI programme. Last year the graduands approached Sepuloni as president and expressed a desire to travel to New Zealand for their graduation. He explains, “They said, ‘We want to see our brothers and sisters in Tauranga, in Bethlehem. We want to join together with them in this graduation.”
They agreed that they would raise the funds themselves to come. At the time approached, unfortunately Sepuloni couldn’t afford to come so he sent a message to BTI saying he would not be able to attend after all. But BTI lecturers and student teachers rallied around to make a way. “Lucky I have friends here,” smiles Sepuloni. “All the teachers here they donated some amount of money to me and sent it over to me, and that’s what makes me to come here.”
Sepuloni was thrilled that his family, and the families of the other gradates had been able to travel with them – some from Tonga and some from Auckland. “I want to show my family that this is the way how to do education,” he said. “I need them to share with me the happiness and the joy of this blessing that God gave us.”