Principal Blog – Term 2, Week 1

Don Bosco emphasised that “education is a matter of the heart”.

During the holidays I had the wonderful opportunity to visit our Salesian schools and parishes in Samoa. I was fortunate to travel with other Principals and senior school leaders as part of the APSPA (Australian Pacific Salesian Principals Association) immersion to the Salesian ministries in the Pacific.

The initiative, led by Lauren Hichaaba from the Salesian Missions, involved visiting staff and students at Don Bosco Technical Centre (Alafua), Don Bosco College and Technical Centre (Salelologa) and St Joseph’s Primary School (Leauvaa).

I witnessed students being taught in the Salesian way with heart and mind. It was evident that our shared Salesian charter was fostered and lived in our Samoan schools. It was clear that we were entering a home that welcomes, parish that evangelises, school for life and a playground where friends meet despite the differences in language and culture. In entering into each educational setting, we were warmly greeted and made to feel at home – the Salesian spirit was evident and felt. A smile, hand shake or fist pump was the greeting and thus we were comfortable in the new environment.

Don Bosco was the common narrative that brings us together.

During our stay on the islands of U’polo and Savai’I, our hearts were captured and transformed by the beautiful Samoan students and teachers. We were fully immersed into their faith and educational communities through prayer, student role plays of the story of the ‘dream’, kava ceremonies, and beautiful signing and dancing.

It was amazing to see the learning and teaching environments that were targeted to meet the needs of all students and provide meaningful skills for life. We viewed learning in academic subjects of Religious Education, English, Math and Samoan language and culture. We too witnessed technical classrooms where students were obtaining qualifications in plumbing, electrotechnology, automotive, carpentry and sewing. Levels of student engagement was high despite the hot and at times oppressive learning conditions. These experiences gave the immersion group moments of learning and reflection at each school and community.

In 2022, Salesian College Chadstone donated $22,000 to the Salesian Missions for works at Don Bosco Technical Centre in Alafua. I was able to witness the impact this money had on the school community with a classroom and fale built to accommodate the expanding visual arts program. Students and staff are thoroughly enjoying their new learning spaces and the drawings, sculpture and paintings created are outstanding.

Teachers in Samoa receive little ongoing professional learning. A highlight of the trip was delivering professional learning to the staff in our Salesian charism and learning and teaching practices. APSPA schools will continue discussions as to how we can continue to provide formation and professional learning to the eager staff who want to learn how to best support their students.

Beyond the classrooms the APSPA group were able to experience the beautiful culture and environment of Samoa. Attending the parish Sunday mass at Salelologa was a highlight with uplifting signing and cultural dance. The church had a presence of the island and under the guidance of parish priest Fr Petelo draws Catholics from all parts of the island of Savai’I to share and celebrate their strong faith. It too had an amazing view across the spectacular ocean and reef views that Samoa is famous. We were also able to experience local food, cultural dancing, singing and art which provided much joy for myself and immersion participants. It was clear that Samoans were proud of their cultural and faith beliefs and rituals.

Salesian College Chadstone will continue to partner with these schools to support staff professional learning and help provide resources for learning and teaching to support the education of the young. Discussions with Principals Mane (Alafua) and Fr Petelo (Salelologa) highlight opportunities for further partnership, understanding and support of our schools in Australia and the Pacific.

I thank the Salesian communities in Samoa for their kindness and hospitality. May we continue to live in the spirit of Don Bosco.