Updated: Jun 15, 2022
Last month, I got an email from a colleague in the Public Service, that there's a survey being circulated amongst ex-Tonga High School students to create a profile for THS alumni.
Now, I'm not a particularly strong #TekeHai type of ex-student. Since I also don't have Facebook, other than my few close friends, I have absolutely no idea what the people I went to high school with are doing now. Despite my lack of involvement in other THS alumni activities, I had fun with this survey and reminiscing about the good times I had with my friends from High School.
If you're not familiar with Tonga High School, here you go: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonga_High_School . THS is one of the government-operated co-ed high schools which was founded in 1947 to select and educate the brightest students in Tonga. It's still a fairly young school in comparison to the church schools established by the missionaries in the 1860s. Depending on who you ask, they'd probably tell you that ex-THS students have a reputation for being a square bunch of nerds or a wild bunch of party animals. Both are solid truths, and I snuggly fit into both 😅 😂.
Since I graduated, I noticed there's been more emphasis on spirituality and religion studies for the current students. I already detested Sunday School growing up, so if I had to also learn church things at school, I'd probably have hated school too. I think they should be separate things, but that's just me. It's interesting how things have changed since I've left, but it's also exciting to see how the future will change. Anyway, that's enough before I go on a tangent.😅 😂 Here's my submission. 😅 😂.
Tonga High School Alumni Profile Form
Full Name of Person to be profiled: ‘Alamoni Grace Nafe
Village(s): Ha’ateiho, Tongatapu. Fonoifua, Ha’apai. Tokyo, Japan.
Year of entry to THS: 2007 (Graduated in 2011)
School House : Nua House
What did it feel like to pass the entrance exam to THS: I sat the Form 2 Entrance Exam from Tonga Side School to THS in 2006. When I passed the entrance exam, I remember feeling relieved. My father, who was a teacher, was the more jubilant one. There hadn’t been anyone from his home island of Fonoifua, Ha’apai, who entered THS before, and my extended paternal family were also happy for me. My mother is Japanese, so she didn’t see the big deal of me passing to THS, I suppose 🤣 🤣. To her, it was just another school. To my father though, I was the first in his family who would be entering the best school in Tonga.
Any siblings or any of your children attended THS? (If yes, pls provide full name and year
of entry): Yes (Younger sister: Yumi Casualina Nafe, 2009)
Any specific role(s) while in THS (eg. Form Captain, House Captains, Prefect, sports, music or any particular field of study etc)?
· THS School Prefect- 2010 & 2011
· Nua House Captain- 2011
· THS Athletics Team- 2011 (Track: 400 m, 800 m, 1500 m, Relay 4x400 & Relay 4x100)
· THS U/18 Girls Soccer Team Captain-2011
· Co-manager of Tuck Shoppe School Canteen- 2010 (Co-managed with my friends Sisi Nonu and Luke Page)
Did you have a favourite teacher/subject and why?
Mr. ‘Ilifeleti Tovo (Form 6 & 7 History): He was a very passionate teacher and clear explanations during class times. He also had a fantastic sense of humour and a very happy spirit that made coming to class something to look forward to.
Mrs. ‘Oliveti Tovo (Form 5, 6 & 7 Biology): It was very easy to understand her explanations during class. She always went out of her way to help students with assignments and exam preparations. When there were holiday classes, Mrs Tovo would bring us snacks and lunch for the class to share, which I feel was a generous and kind gesture.
What was the best thing about being at THS? Please share a favourite memory from your time in THS
The best thing about being at THS is being surrounded by peers and friends who are equally as ambitious as you are. You’re constantly motivating, challenging and pushing each other to be better, and do better whilst still being supportive of each other, to be the best you can be. I think that environment of friendly competition, especially in academics, is unique to THS.
My favourite memory from THS was shared lunch with my friends. We didn’t have much money, so we’d split a few samosas, keke ‘isite, noodles and water between us while sharing stories about our day so far. In my friend group, we all took different classes. Some were Arts students (History, Geography, Tourism), some were Business (Accounting, Economics) and some were Science students (Biology, Chemistry). It was interesting to hear about what my friend learnt in Economics or we’d share a gruesome fact we’d learnt about the human body in Biology that day. We’d share ideas to help our friend with her Tourism project or brainstorm together how we’d get our Statistics assignment done more easily. Always learning. Always curious.
On Fridays, we’d pool together whatever money we had, to get an upgraded lunch from the samosas. Sometimes, we’d share a Moa Vilovilo BBQ from Sabrina Restaurant, when it was still a small take-out across JJ video store. Sometimes, it was a bowl of ice cream and buns from Chateau House across the Nuku’alofa Police station, when it used to be a gelato store. We’d laugh and talk about our week at school, plans for the weekend and the occasional gossip and boy-talk that I’m sure everyone has. 🤣 🤣
Even now, as we’ve gotten older, the topics of our conversation are still as diverse and interesting, as we’ve all gone into different career paths. Where we once had talks and laughs over scraps of samosas and melted ice cream, we now have our talks and laughs online as we live in different countries. When we can meet in person, our talks are just as lively and animated coupled with a few beers and a much better meal. Some things rarely change.
Education has changed a lot over the years - from the subjects being taught to the mode of delivery (e.g., internet, online resources), but what fundamental and timeless advice would you give to students and teachers of any age, to help them succeed at school?
Focusing more on the students, the advice I’d like to give them is this. With information becoming easily and readily available, especially online, it’s important to develop critical thinking skills from a young age and not be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if your voice shakes. There are no such things as silly questions. The only silly question is the one you don’t ask. If you have doubts or uncertainties, ask. The world is massive and there are many things we still don’t know. Stay curious and always have a learning mindset.
Please summarise your journey after THS to where you are today.
Since I graduated from THS in 2011, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have received scholarships that enabled me to go to university for both my Bachelor and Master’s degrees. I was a recipient of the New Zealand Pacific Scholarship awards from 2012- 2014 to study at the University of Auckland. After graduation, I found work in the Tongan Government, at the Office of the Public Service Commission.
From 2019-2020, I was a recipient of the UK Chevening Scholarship, which allowed me to pursue my Master's Degree in Human Resources and Employment Relations at Brunel University London. Upon graduation and to date, I still work in the Tonga civil service, in the same organisation.
I am passionate about learning and it’s something I genuinely enjoy, so I’d like to do an MBA and maybe even a doctorate in the future. In the meantime, I’m trying to do the best I can at my current job because there are valuable lessons to be learnt there too.
From your personal and professional development and life, what advice would you like to share with past, present and future THS students?
For me, THS was a place that encouraged and nurtured ambition and learning. Even now, long after I’ve graduated and left, I still feel that the spirit of Ki He Lelei Taha is a big driver of how I carry myself.
From my observations so far, there are many THS alumni in my workplace and across the Public Service. What I’ve noticed is that THS alumni tend to be more assertive, outspoken and driven. They’re usually not afraid to rock the boat and go the extra mile. I think the THS school motto of “To the Best” is ingrained deeply in us, that we find it difficult to accept anything less than excellent. In saying that, there is a tendency to want to do too many things at once, a tendency to set unrealistic goals and timelines as well as a tendency for perfectionism.
With that in mind, my 2 cents advice, especially for present and future students is this: While I think having high goals and being ambitious is admirable, please don’t take on more than you can chew. If you must take on more than you can handle, be clever and strategic about it. Manage your time, energy and resources wisely. Don’t be arrogant and think you can do it all. You’re allowed to ask for help.
Adding to that, please remember to be humble, be kind, be willing to learn from others, and be willing to admit that you can be wrong sometimes. Ki He Lelei Taha to me means that in every situation, there is an opportunity to be the best version of yourself. Learn to recognize those opportunities, and learn how to better yourself. Ki He Lelei taha isn’t just some pretty phrase. It’s a mindset. Carry it with you. Always.
So yeah, that was my submission. Thanks for reading!
If you read this and you're also a THS alumni, what would your answers be?
If you'd like to make your own alumni submission, here's the template!
Complete it and send to email@example.com before or by 30th September 2021.
Hope that completing it will also bring back good and fun memories for you.
Until next time. 'Ofa atu.