Beulah Adventist Primary School was in the international spotlight last week when a delegation of South Pacific government leaders paid a visit to see the impact on students of the Health Promoting Schools (HPS) program.
Visitors to the Tongan school included Australia’s assistant mental health minister Emma McBride, New Zealand’s associate health minister Aupito William Sio and Palau’s health minister Gaafar Uherbelau. They were in Tonga for the 15th Pacific Health Ministers Meeting.
The HPS project is a partnership between the Tongan Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education and Training, supported by funding from the World Health Organization.
“The aim of the HPS project is to empower school children to develop healthy behaviours and attitudes that are long-lasting,” said Dr Elisapesi Manson, education consultant for Adventist Schools in Tonga.
“The model of HPS in Tonga focuses on diet and physical activities, water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and wellbeing aimed at providing learners with positive student experiences and engagement.”
To monitor progress in each school, a School-Based Assessment and Monitoring (SBAM) tool is used, with achievements categorised as gold, silver or bronze under three priority areas.
Dr Manson highlighted the significant influence of health and wellbeing on students’ learning outcomes and underlined the long-standing commitment of Adventist philosophy of education to nurturing well-rounded individuals.
“Integration of faith and learning in the overall school curriculum that promotes healthy values such as cleanliness and hygiene, plant-based diet, movement and fitness, a drug-free and safe environment is a distinctive requirement of Adventist schools,” she said.
“Although the HPS goals are not new to Adventist schools, their participation in the HPS program has further strengthened anticipated learning outcomes.”
Dr Manson said the journey of excellence with HPS in Adventist schools in Tonga has been transformational over the past three years. “Adventist schools have continued to improve to the gold level of achievement, including this year,” she said.
During their visit, the government leaders expressed their appreciation for how Beulah Adventist Primary School is achieving the HPS goals.
In an interview with ABC radio’s Pacific Beat program, Ms McBride expressed her appreciation for “the real practical difference that these programs are making within local schools”. Vegetable gardens, for example, are “being used in teaching children about healthy eating and nutrition, and those children [are] then taking that back to their families at home”.