Prince praises school at opening of new buildings

January 25, 2003
Students at the opening of the new buildings at the Ocean of Light International School reflect a diversity of backgrounds.

NUKU'ALOFA, Tonga — In an opening ceremony for two internet-ready buildings at the Ocean of Light International School, Crown Prince Tupoutoa of Tonga praised the school for its technological advancement.

"The opening of the buildings could not have come at a better time in Tonga's history because for the first time this school is breaking new ground in using the technology to mitigate the negative effects of the economy," Prince Tupoutoa said in a speech at the ceremony on 25 January 2003.

"I shall follow the progress of the school with much interest and great affection," he said.

Owned by the Baha'i community of Tonga, the school and its international staff seek to provide a high quality education for Tongans and other students from around the world.

During its seven years of operation the school outgrew its rented facilities. Now the two new buildings will provide some 2,000 square meters of space for classrooms, laboratories and a library.

Headmaster Alan Cains said the curriculum of Ocean of Light was inspired by Baha'i principles.

"The school aims to inspire its students and graduates to dedicate themselves to the service of the human race," said Mr. Cains. "It is dedicated to the development of the spiritual, intellectual and physical potential of its students."

Crown Prince Tupoutoa of Tonga cuts ribbon to open the new buildings at the Ocean of Light International School. Slideshow
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Crown Prince Tupoutoa of Tonga cuts ribbon to open the new buildings at the Ocean of Light International School.

"We seek opportunities for the students to give of themselves for the benefit of others, such as mentoring in schools for children with hearing impairments and other disabilities, cross-age tutoring and raising awareness about protecting the physical environment," Mr. Cains said.

The school also seeks to foster the spiritual development of its students by the teaching of spiritual values in the primary school and moral education in the high school, said Sohrab Bolouri, a member of the Ocean of Light education board.

"Each week, a virtue is selected for the entire school to put into practice, Mr. Bolouri said. "Starting the morning assembly with devotions also helps create a spiritual atmosphere."

He said the school was open to all strata of society and aimed to give its students an international vision, characterised by the concept of world citizenship and a universal value system.

"Classes, except for those for the study of the Tongan language, are taught in English, thus enabling students to gain access to a wide and ever-increasing amount of information from throughout the world."

The school currently offers classes for students ranging in age from 3 to 16 but will add a twelfth grade next year. High school diplomas will be awarded to graduates.

The new classroom buildings are wired for internet connection, thereby providing a system for students in the future to use their own laptop computers and connect to the school network.

The buildings for this non-profit school cost under US$500,000 and were financed with a bank loan and donations.

Located on the outskirts of Nuku'alofa, the capital city of Tonga, the school opened in 1996 and started its program with only nine students. At present there are 250 children at the school, with about 80 per cent from Tonga. Others come from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the United States.

The official opening of the new buildings was followed by a luncheon and entertainment for the 600 guests, who included Prince Tupoutoa's brother, the Honorable Maatu, and his wife Alaileula, the granddaughter of His Highness Malietoa Tanumafili II, the Head of State of Samoa.

Also present were government ministers, ambassadors, and other dignitaries. Baha'i representatives included Donald Blanks, a member of the Continental Board of Counsellors, a senior advisory body that forms part of the Baha'i administration, three members of the Counsellors' Auxiliary Boards, and seven of the nine members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Tonga, the elected governing council of the Baha'i community in the country.

The ceremony's program, broadcast live on radio throughout Tonga and later televised to the nation, comprised prayers as well as quotations from the Baha'i Writings which emphasize the significance of education. The readings were followed by cultural dances from Tonga and other islands in the region, performed by the students and staff of the school.

A local Baha'i youth dance troupe performed a new dance entitled "Education". The dance highlighted the importance of finding the balance between spiritual, physical and academic education.