|It was a grim day, that day in February 2018 when Cyclone Gita struck the island of Tongatapu in the Kingdom of Tonga. Sokopeti Akauola and her grandparents were huddled in their house with the rain lashing the island with torrential rain and fierce winds.Then first the roof and then some walls were ripped off the house.
Sokopeti, 16 years of age, has been raised by her grandparents and she was deeply attached to them.
“My grandfather raised me ever since I was a little baby and being the youngest of the family, I followed my grandfather everywhere he goes and do everything he does. That is how I first developed my love for Carpentry, Engineering and Arts. Knowing that Liahona offered these classes, I always look forward to enter Liahona High School so I can learn more about it.”
“In February 2018 after Cyclone Gita, part of our house had been destroyed, especially the roof. During that time, only my grandparents and I were at home, the rest of the siblings are overseas. The very next day after the cyclone, my grandparents were having a hard time trying to figure out who could come and fix our house before it rained again. I tried to be strong for my family and decided to do all I could.”
“Taking TVET is one of the best decisions I have made in my life and I have no regrets up to this day. The skills that I have developed the last two years have helped in so many ways. As we all know today that labor is very expensive to pay someone to come and fix anything that is needed to be fixed. My poor family saves a lot of money, stress and hardship only because I was able to do all these so they don’t have to pay someone to do it.”
At Liahono High School, Sokopeti had undertaken the Certificate in Vocational and Technical Skills (CITVS that Manukau Institute of Technology had introduced into Tonga in 2013).
“I was able to fix the roof and the interior all by myself with some of my friends from school. It was hard for some of my family to believe that I was the one that fixed our roof with the little skills I have learned inside the classroom.”
Gathering together a group of her friends Sokopeti had replaced the roof and mended the walls. The Certificate, now taken each year by 700 students, has three objectives. First students would be kept in school and training (they have been), second they might work towards a trades career (the enrolment at the Tonga Institute of Science and Technology (TIST) has doubled in the five years of the programme to date) and finally, the third objective was that should a student leave school early, they would return to their village with skills.
Do we need better proof of this programme than that provided by Sokopeti?
She has the last word.
“The TVET classes have helped me in many ways at home. I built my grandfather’s own pig fence for his pigs. I fixed our own vehicle when it’s wasn’t working. I can fix anything in the house when it is broken.”
“Keep in mind that I am the only child at home most of the time so my grandparents rely on me for almost everything.”
Sokopeti is a remarkable student who continues her study at TIST. One day she hopes to study at MIT.