The Tonga government funds for non-government high schools have been withheld again by the Ministry of Education and Training for more than three years now, it has been revealed.
The Ministry withheld the money after it was discovered that some of the grants had not been used according to the purpose of the funding programme.
The revelation was made by Lord Sevele ‘O Vailahi in a speech last week during a live streamed ceremony in Tongatapu attended by the Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa.
“Today only part of that money has been paid to the teachers,” Lord Sevele said.
“That’s not right.
“That money was authorised by the Parliament and was allocated from the people’s tax money to help increase the teachers’ salaries.”
Dr Sevele asked Hon Tu’i’onetoa to help fix the problem.
He said it was unfortunate some schools did not use the money according to the purpose of the funding programme.
He said that is “wrong and illegal”.
He said there was a case now before the court regarding an alleged misuse of the funding programme. The noble was referring to the court case in which the Minister of Infrastructure ‘Akosita Lavulavu and her husband Etuate had been charged after auditors uncovered irregularities in a 2016 audit of the ‘Unuaki ‘o Tonga Royal Institute, of which Mrs Lavulavu was a director.
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Lord Sevele, a former Prime Minister and Director of Catholic Schools said the churches have breached an agreement he and a committee successfully arranged with the government in 1986 to help support the non-government schools financially.
He said he has calculated the money that has been withheld from the funding programme in the last three years was over a million.
“That’s huge money,” he told listeners.
The money was intended to top up non-government school teachers’ pay to match the equivalent of high salaries offered by the government to its teachers.
Lord Sevele said the grant paid $20 per head for each non-government school student when the programme started more than 40 years ago.
Today the government has paid $700 per student.
NZ and Australia funding
The catastrophe for the private schools came after the Australian and New Zealand funds for non-government high schools have been withheld by the Tongan Ministry of Education and Training in 2016.
As we reported at the time, the Ministry withheld the money after it was discovered that some of the grants had not been used according to the purpose of the funding programme.
New Zealand and Australia co-fund a multi-million dollar programme for secondary schools in the kingdom.
At the time, the then Free Wesleyan Church Schools’ Director of Education, Dr Mele’ana Puloka, said it had been two years since New Zealand and Australian funding was held back from the church’s schools.
She said she knew there were good reasons why the funding had been withheld, but the church could not only pay its teachers and disregard other staff working outside the classrooms.
In 2011 the grant paid TP$400 per head for each non-government school student, made up of TP$100 from Australia, TP$100 from New Zealand and TP$200 from the Tongan government.
The New Zealand and Australian funding was finally released the same year.
Kuo ‘i ai ‘a e tui ne maumau’i ‘e he ngaahi ako siasi e aleapau ne fai mo e pule’anga’ ‘o iku kei ta’ofi tu’u ai e laui miliona pa’anga ne totonu ke tokoni ki he vāhenga kau faiako siasi’. Ko ha alea ‘eni ne fakapapau’i ‘i he ta’u 1986 ke fakapa’anga ‘e he pule’anga $20 e fo’i ‘ulu ‘o e toko taha ako siasi kotoa pe. ‘I he ‘aho ni kuo a’u ki he $700 ki he fo’i ‘ulu ‘a e tokoni ko ia’. Ka kuo mahino kuo ‘ikai ngāue’aki ‘e he ngaahi ako’ ‘a e tokoni ko ‘eni ki hono taumu’a totonu’ ‘a ia ko e tokoni ki he vāhenga ‘a e kau faiako kae ngāue’aki ia ki he ngaahi me’a kehe. Kuo laka hake ‘i he ta’u ‘e tolu ‘a hono ta’ofi ‘o e tokoni ko ‘eni’ ‘e he pule’anga’. ‘I he 2016 ne lipooti atu ai ‘e he Kaniva’ hono ta’ofi tu’u ‘a e tokoni ‘a Nu’u Sila mo ‘Aositelēlia ki he ngaahi ako ‘a Tonga’ ai pe he ‘uhinga tatau ko hono maumau’i ‘e he ngaahi siasi’ ‘a e aleapau ki he taumu’a ‘o e pa’anga’.