Transformation at Tenakoga

Children's reading corner in the new Lorraine Hendra Library. (Credit: Solomon Star)

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Tenakoga Adventist College in Solomon Islands has undergone a massive transformation in infrastructure and academic standards in recent years thanks to the hard work of locals and help from donors and supporters in Australia.

“Tenakoga Adventist College continues to rise!” said principal Gibson Apusae emphatically.

“Five years ago, our academic standards were not at a satisfactory level. We had limited fresh water, limited electricity infrastructure and generation capacity, and staff and students had to walk 300 metres to the river for washing and bathing.

“We had a library of sorts with few resources and it was not well organised. It was also difficult to employ quality teachers.

Dr Ken Long, founder of Books for the Solomons, with Ishmael Kukiti, Member for the Paripao Ward, and Minister for Women, Youth and Sport. (Credit: Solomon Star)

“In the past five years the Tenakoga campus has been transformed and its infrastructure been upgraded significantly. In 2014 a solar pump was installed to pump water 380m from the river to three 10,000 litre storage tanks. In addition, 1.3 km of water pipe was laid to transport the water around the campus and to staff houses. Then there’s the 42 kVA generator that was commissioned with 30 power poles and 1.5 km of cable to transport the electricity around the campus.”

In addition to these projects, the boys’ and girls’ ablution blocks were completed. This provided students with functioning showers and toilets as well as laundry areas where previously they had pit toilets and had to go to the river for bathing and washing clothes. The college also added to a school canteen and guest residence.

Tenakoga Adventist College is a Seventh-day Adventist school located approximately 90 minutes’ drive from Honiara in North East Guadalcanal. Most of the school’s students come from the surrounding subsistence communities of Geza, Gove, Geghede, Ghobua and Salalamau villages.

August 5 was a momentous day for the college when two new buildings that formed part of the campus master plan were officially opened: the Lorraine Hendra Library and Eaton Hall (dining hall).

The official party included chief education officer (CEO) from Guadalcanal, Maesac Suia;  Ishmael Kukiti, Member for Paripao Ward Guadalcanal Provincial Assembly, Minister for Women, Youth and Sport; Billy Leta, education director of Solomon Islands Mission; Pastor Ray Eaton; Dr Ken Long, founder of Books for the Solomons; Douglas Gena, Tenakoga Adventist College, School Council chairman; Pastor Irving Vagha, Solomon Islands Mission; Gibson Apusae, principal; Kevin Sura, deputy principal; and Merton Toata, associate education director.

In his opening speech, Pastor Eaton stressed the philosophy of the Australian education support team: “together we can do better”. He said “the locals could do a lot and we expats could ‘put the icing on the top’. That means that you—the Tenakoga Adventist College, the College Council, volunteers from the 4 Gs (Geza, Govu, Ghombua and Gheghede)—did what you could, and we did some other things like providing funds for the building. It was a very beneficial partnership.”

College principal Gibson Apusae and Pastor Ray Eaton. (Credit: Solomon Star)
Patsor Irving Vagha, Dr Ken Long, Ismael Kukiti, Hazel Eaton, Pastor Ray Eaton, Douglas Gena, Gibson Apusae, Billy Leta, Maesac Suia and Merton Toata. (Credit: Solomon Star)

Pastor Eaton stressed that Seventh-day Adventists schools are the bridge that connect local communities to quality local schooling, delivering an authentic, faith-based education. The Adventist philosophy of education is very wholistic as it caters for the spiritual, mental, physical and social aspects of people.

“True education,” he said, “provides nurture for today, learning for tomorrow and character for eternity. When Christ bridged the gap to humanity, He showed what it is like to live a life of service. He demonstrated the life that counted for more than self; Live beyond the here and now.”

“I am satisfied,” said Mr Apusae, a man with a dream and a vision for Tenakoga Adventist College. “I am satisfied with the significant progress that has been made in the improvement of the infrastructure at Tenakoga Adventist College over the past seven years.”

Mr Apusae paid tribute to the leadership of Dr Alex Currie and Pastor Ray Eaton of the Australian education support team, Lorraine Hendra as major sponsor, the College Council, volunteers from the 4 Gs, donors and tradesmen from Australia, students and staff from Hills Adventist College in Sydney and many others.

While there were many speeches, the speech of Ishmael Kukiti was compelling as he challenged the students to use the new library. “In that library is the whole world to you,” he said.  “If you want to know the world, that is in the library. It can pave the way for your future success. It’s the best library in the Solomon Islands.”

Eaton Hall — new dining hall kitchen

“This cyclone-rated building is a significant steel structure, probably the biggest steel structure in the region,” said Pastor Eaton. “It’s 525 square metres and I’m excited by the quality and functionality of the equipment being installed and the opportunity to provide first-class hygiene for students at the college.”

The dining hall was named Eaton Hall in recognition of the contribution and leadership of Pastor Ray and Mrs Hazel Eaton in the establishment of Tenakoga Adventist College as well as Pastor Eaton’s work in co-ordinating the Australian group which provides support to schools in Solomon Islands.

Students utilising the new dining hall. (Credit: Solomon Star)

Pastor and Mrs Eaton went to work for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Solomons in 1991. Mrs Eaton taught at the International School at Palm Drive for 10 years while Pastor Eaton was ministerial secretary for the Western Pacific Union Mission as well as other portfolios. In 1997, Pastor Eaton was appointed president of the Eastern Solomon Islands Mission, a position he held until returning to Australia in early 2002.

The dining hall has been fitted out with tables constructed personally by the principal and with many colourful stools. It is a beautiful building with high quality finishes and a painted floor to emphasise the special nature of the building. It’s colourful as well, in keeping with the wonderful colours which decorate the campus, and which reflect the vibrancy of the education the students receive.

The kitchen at the rear of the dining hall includes five stainless steel benches for preparation and the serving of food, five stainless steel sinks for washing, peeling and cutting fruit and vegetables, and for washing dishes. The fitout also includes vermin-proof cupboards for storing perishable foods. Truly amazing for a rural high school in regional Guadalcanal. Two stainless steel environmentally-friendly stoves use only small amounts of wood to cook up to 100 litres of taro, sweet potato or rice.

Eaton Hall. (Credit: Solomon Star)

“Having a dedicated dining hall/kitchen provides our students with a central place to eat their meals as they have in the past just sat around the campus in small groups,” said Mr Apusae.

Chair of the College Council, Douglas Gena, said, “The College Council is relieved and excited that the project has been completed. Our communities have provided a lot of manpower to complete the dining hall, but we know that it will give our children new experiences and the opportunity to eat together socially and to learn proper table manners and etiquette.”

The project was a co-operative effort of Tenakoga Adventist College, the College Council, volunteers from the 4 Gs, donors and tradesmen from Australia, and students and staff from Hills Adventist College (HAC) in Sydney.

HAC principal Dr Malcolm Coulson said, “Our college encourages our students to be community-minded. We are proud of the contribution our students and staff have made to the improved infrastructure.”

To see a video tour of the new Eaton Hall dining room and kitchen, go to the Tenakoga Adventist College Facebook page.

Lorraine Hendra Library

“The hard times are over, ” said Ishmael Kukiti, member for the Paripao Ward, and Minister for Women, Youth and Sport, and also a former student and Bible teacher at Tenakoga Adventist College.

“Being a student, we experienced hard times in reading and putting assignments together,” he said. “We tried to look for books to help us with our assignments but couldn’t find any. Now I can see the books in the library, and I believe that they will help our students enhance their learning and increase the resources available to them. My heart is so thrilled to see this library opening today.”

“God has blessed us with a wonderful library,” said Mr Apusae enthusiastically. “Few high schools in our country have a purpose-built library with such an extensive array of books like ours. We want to thank the generous donors who have funded and supported our library, particularly Lorraine Hendra. We also want to thank Dr Ken Long who started the initiative of Books for the Solomons, which has provided most of the books in our library.”

Students in the new college library. (Credit: Solomon Star)

The library is a 160 square metre (16 metre by 10 metre) besser brick building with a sealed and painted floor. Each of the bricks was lovingly made by committed volunteers from the local communities as well as students and staff from Hills Adventist College.

College librarian Paul Avoso Padarango said, “ Our library is a real library. It has proper library shelves with the books all classified according to the Dewey system. While our library is a high school library, we even have a children’s corner [with books] for the young children of staff to read.”

Registrar Chareen Simbe said, “Our new library is a major improvement on our temporary library facilities. Having this library provides a focal point for our students’ learning. With the facility we have been able to expand the number of books and resources we hold, and this increases our students’ ability to broaden their knowledge through reading and research.”

English teacher Katelyn Pole agrees: “Our students love to read in the library and this makes my job as an English teacher much easier. It stimulates their interest in reading and improving their English, and helps them develop more confidence in speaking English.”

To see a video tour of the new Lorraine Hendra Library, go to the Tenakoga Adventist College Facebook page.

The internet is coming

In another major development, Mr Apusae excitedly announced that “the Solomon Islands government has selected 10 schools from across the country to receive internet facilities. The government will generously fund the connection of the Tenakoga library to the internet and it is anticipated that this will happen by the end of 2019.” Everyone is excited by having access to the internet.

Biology and agricultural science teacher Joseph Lapoe said it will especially benefit the Form 6 students as they need to do research as part of their studies. “At the moment,” Mr Lapoe said, “these students must go to Honiara and do their research at one of the four internet cafes. This is very time-consuming as they have to travel to Honiara by truck (a minimum trip of 90 minutes each way) or walk so they miss classes. Having access to the internet will continue to improve the academic standard of our students and our college.”

The Lorraine Hendra Library. (Credit: Solomon Star)

Mr Padarango is excited by the introduction of the internet as it will “bring the world to Tenakoga Adventist College”.

But Ms Pole was the most excited by this development. “Access to the internet will open up so many opportunities for our students,” she said. “While increasing their ability to do research, it will enable them to watch videos online as well as inspiring stories to stimulate their thinking and help them in their understanding and appreciation of English. The internet will open the minds of our students to the world and this will provide the motivation for them to study harder and smarter.”

In addition, internet access will enable teachers to access new resources and content to enable them to improve their teaching delivery and creativity.

Increasing academic achievement

“The academic achievements of Tenakoga Adventist College have continued to improve over the past year,” said Ms Simbe.

College librarian Paul Avoso Padarango with the Oxford English dictionary presented to the library by Ken and Wendy Long. (Credit: Solomon Star)

“Following the success of our 16 Form 6 students in 2016, 26 students graduated last year and most have progressed to tertiary studies at Solomon Islands National University or Atoifi.”

Some students are studying education, journalism and tourism, and some have opted to attend the University of the South Pacific for their foundational studies.

In 2018 the college added an arts stream to its existing science stream to broaden its academic offering. The arts stream includes geography, history, development studies, Maths, Bible and English. The addition of this stream will provide a greater range of subject choice, particularly for those students without a science orientation.

While the college has made significant ground in improving its infrastructure and academic standing, Mr Apusae has a bigger dream; an aspirational dream to be considered as one of the best high schools in Solomon Islands. “Our aim is to be a leading high school in Guadalcanal competing with the very best in our province,” he said.

Increased enrolment

The Solomon Islands Government has announced the phasing out of the Grade 6 National Examination, Solomon Islands Secondary Entrance Examination (SISEE), so all grade 6 students must be placed in a high school and registered in Form 1. As a consequence, Tenakoga Adventist College has been asked to double stream Form 1.

“This change will add an additional 40 students per year and provide educational opportunities for more students,” said Mr Apusae.  “We will need to build two more classrooms for 2020 and plan for additional dormitory space and staff housing.”

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