What an interesting week this has been! October in Tonga is ‘taimi sivi’ [a.k.a. test time!]! This time of year every class 6 student takes the SEE [Secondary Entrance Exam], colloquially referred to as the ‘sivi’ [test]. There are 4 separate sections testing the kids on English, Tongan Language, Science, and Math. The kids’ ‘sivi’ score can determine a lot about their future. It certainly carries a lot more weight than any test I took at age 11.
There are 6 High Schools [one government and 5 religious] here in Vava’u and the kids’ scores determine where he or she can attend school. It’s quite the regimented process. Each child’s family comes into school and ranks their top three high school choices. Months later, after the ‘sivi’ has been graded, I am told that a big announcement is made on the radio and the kids all find out what school they’ll be attending.
SIVI week blasted off to a bit of a slow start. I meandered into school Monday morning to find our students split into a variety of factions. There were card sharks on the verandah, future athletes kicking the rugby ball around, some ‘bookworms’ fanning themselves with my recently arranged library books, and the truly hardcore few having ‘chicken fights’ in the schoolyard [if you are unaware, chicken fights consist of two pairs of kids. one kid is the legs of the operation while the other sits on his/her shoulders. the two shoulder sitters duke it out until one team topples over. now…. I like a chicken fight as much as the next gal, but I did my chicken fighting in a POOL! These kids are arm wrestling and slapping each other around before plummeting 4 feet down to some pretty solid ground. Needless to say, the band-aid box is a popular destination.] Sorry, wandered off on a tangent there. However, my point was that not much happened the day before our big test began. While the kids played, the teachers went to work preparing the testing rooms. Preparing the testing rooms, you say? How long can that take? Grab a few pencils and make sure there are enough chairs, right? Wrong. We had to pin up white sheets all over the classroom and make sure there were absolutely no distractions for the kids. Quite the process!
Finally, bright and early Tuesday morning, the kids arrived with shiny sharp pencils in hand ready to tackle the SIVI. For 4 hours each day, the kids toiled away taking tests. Meanwhile, I lounged around [like a hippie Peace Corps should] talking to grandmothers and smelling flowers. After testing, however, the kids were justly rewarded with a giant feast….4 days in a row! Every afternoon, the whole village seemed to appear out of nowhere with pigs, tables, coconuts, and fish galore! I have never been so absolutely stuffed! Some local ministers blessed the food and then various townsfolk gave fakamālō's [which are mini thank you speeches] praising God for puaka [pork], kau faiako [teachers], and everything in between! Mālō e sivi!!