This week is one of celebration. And for students taking part in the “Classmates of 1981 Reunion 2016” being held this week, Wednesday night was a very special evening.
They recognised this with a ball of a different type held at Sails Restaurant Mulinu’u where they honoured all the teachers who helped get them to where they are today.
The group is made up of different college graduates who all began together at a small school called Apia Infant but took different paths as they went into their college years. (full story Bonds that last a lifetime).
The night began with each student giving a brief sentence of where they are now in life followed by a moment of silence for those teachers and students who have passed on.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi was present and he presented the awards to the teachers honoured.
For one retired 90-year-old teacher, he felt honored by the gesture and expressed how proud he is of each and every one of his students. Dick Bishop, who had taught the majority of the group at Leififi Intermediate, said the event was an emotional tribute by the group.
“This event has taken me back many, many years and the thrill of it all as there are so many people here; teachers and ex students that I have met throughout the years,” he said.
“We have Mary Bartley here who was one of the original students in the first ever class I have taught as well as Margret Hunter who was a student of mine for three years before leaving on scholarship.
“They are the people who are responsible for bringing me back to Samoa because if I hadn’t then it’s like losing a family.”
Mr. Bishop expressed his appreciation towards his former students as well as his love for Samoa.
“So for me tonight is definitely about rolling back the years; thinking back, being appreciative, and knowing that it was such a pleasure and privilege to meet all of these people again,” he said.
“I have so many friends here. There is definitely no place like Samoa, just like the song says ‘we are Samoa, people of the sun’; many people come up to me and say ‘Oh wow! You are still here?’ and I reply ‘Well can you name any better place than here? Because I certainly can’t’.
“Samoa is my home, I am going to live here for the rest of my life and I will die here.”
He also used the opportunity to encourage the young people of Samoa.
“One message I have for all the young people is that whatever you do with your life, you must enjoy it,” he said. “Confucius said, get a job that you enjoy then you will feel like you have never worked a day in your life.
“I feel that I have never worked my whole life because I have had such a great time, and that’s Samoa.”
But nothing made Mr. Bishop happier than to see his students succeed in life.
“When my students finished school they had a clear mandate,” he said. “We were finite and we understood that we will not last forever; we were not predicated on anything else but the job we had to do for two years.
“We had these students for two years and our job was to prepare them for a successful secondary schooling, that was our mandate and it was very clear and simple.
“We had children from all over the country, they all got on; I was talking the other evening to an ex student and she now has a doctorate in Philosophy, you see these people rising up.
“The only tragedy is that you see the contribution that people like these make towards the New Zealand community; it will never be fully understood or appreciated.
“Our highly intelligent people working for the community of another country; we hear everything that is going wrong but we don’t hear how these people are putting things right.
“I am very, very proud of my students especially for what they put together tonight to honor us, their old teachers.”
According to Mr. Bishop, teachers and all those involved in the educational system hold vital roles for the future of the country.
“I think that yes if I look back over the years, I wonder whether I see the remarkable change within the community,” he said.
“I wonder whether our education system is going to keep up with the speed and development of this community.
“The purpose of the educational system is to serve and to ensure that the young people of the community will grow up as productive and well adjusted social citizens.
“The world is changing so rapidly, Samoa is changing so rapidly with it; so we must have a system that is flexible and is able to adapt to change. Otherwise it’s all pointless.”