Tonga College Principal Apologizes For Beating Video

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Kalafitoni admits physical punishment ‘happens sometimes’

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, April 10, 2013) – Kalafitoni Latu, the Principal of Tonga College ‘Atele, apologized yesterday for the vicious beating of students by a prefect at the all-boys school in a 2011 incident. The incident was captured on video and appeared on the internet last week.

Graphic extracts of the beatings were broadcasted on Television New Zealand One News last night, and posted across many social media websites such as Facebook and YouTube.

The 19 minute video shows over a dozen students, identified as Forms 3- 6, being heavily spanked with a stick, repeatedly. Many of the students could be seen limping and some crying.

Kalafitoni said he only became aware of the online video last week, but believed the incident occurred in 2011, and remembered investigating complaints made by parents.

"I saw the video and remembered that I suspended that prefect in 2011 because of that incident with the boarding students and, probably, the prefect took things into his own hands during that time. The parents complained to me and that’s why I suspended the prefect - for a month and stripped him of his prefect title.

"Sometimes students take things into their own hands. I apologize to the public for what happened."

Kalafitoni said the prefect has since completed his studies at the school.

Corporal punishment

Kalafitoni became Principal of Tonga College in 2011, after serving as Principal of Vava'u High School.

When asked why the prefect had punished the students so harshly, he said the prefects supervise the students, especially in the boarding dormitories.

"Probably he was trying to find out something but the students were reluctant to tell the truth. That’s why he did it so long."

The prefect’s empowerment to hit the students, however, is coming under greater scrutiny. Corporal punishment, despite being illegal by Tongan Law, is common in most primary schools and high schools in Tonga where hidings are administered by teachers or prefects.

Kalafitoni admitted the use of physical punishment at Tonga College, but said that it is only limited to the delinquent students.

"It happens sometimes, when we need to discipline some of the very naughty students."

An ex-student of Tonga College ‘Atele himself, Kalafitoni said the need for physical punishment against delinquent students occurs less frequently when compared to the past. He attributes this to a new system of consultations and coaching that deals with delinquency.

"That problem does not happen so frequently now. We do consulting now, also we use the coaching system to help discipline the student, we contact the parents they come to talk to us concerning the discipline of the students."

He is confident of the new system and hopes the school will avoid the harsh beatings that were endured by the boarding students in 2011.

"I feel so very sorry for them. But I think the system now is working through coaching and counseling to make sure this incident will not occur.

"I just want to apologize to the public for what happened and I hope that no incident will happen again at the school," he said.

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