What follows is a story provided to me by one of our teachers. I know there are many arguments out there about the value of education, but when you start from nothing, the value is hard to discount. Here is Mo's story:
I grew up on a small island of about 500 people. The island is only 3 miles by 5 miles. It was hard for me to see the importance of education. How could I use education in my daily life on this island? What I saw was that I could raise pigs, chickens, cows to eat, grow root crops, vegetables and fruits, and go fishing any time I wanted. However, every day I went to my small elementary school, and my mom told me to study hard so I could have a better life, and life would be much easier for me.
|Pigs range freely on all the islands of Tonga.|
|A field prepared for planting taro, a root crop.|
|A bull resting.|
|Bringing lobster to a feast. |
No one need starve in Tonga.
Her counsel and her loving wishes for a better life for me really touched my heart, yet I saw no reason to gain a better education since no one in my family has any education. The only person with any education was the teacher. I was not sure what education she had, but I thought she had to have some kind of training.
I looked at my immediate family. None of them had finished high school. There seemed to be no reason for me to have an education. If all of my siblings and my parents could survive without education, then so could I. I did not bother to ask whether or not their life was easy. Everything seemed okay without education. So I went to school just to make my mom happy, and just to play with my friends. I did not see any future in an education.
Somehow, I made it into high school. I was suspended and dropped out, but I never told my parents. To this day, they do not know anything about it. I came to the main island to live with my older sister, and when I was suspended, I told my parents that I wanted to transfer from the government school to the Church school. But I was unmotivated. I had been suspended because I did not want to go to school. Still, I did not want to hurt my parents’ feelings.
I recall my conversation with my parents. They shared with me their sadness at the report of an older brother of mine who dropped out of school. I thought at that moment that I had to change, to make my parents proud and happy instead of sad. So I went back to school and graduated. I thought that I had finished all the education I would ever need.
|This statue, called "Education", stands |
in front of Liahona High School.
Then I went on a mission. I saw the “big picture” – that life without education is a lot harder than life with education. I was excited to go back to school after my mission. I was very grateful that I had completed high school and could attend college.
Now I have a Bachelor’s degree, and I would love to further my education when possible. I think of my immediate family and my extended family back on the island – it’s really hard to see the purpose of education when life is all about raising pigs, cutting down coconuts, fishing and harvesting root crops. I am the only one in my family with a college degree. My relatives have not seen the big picture. They do not appreciate how education makes a difference in your life. Education may not be that important on a little island, but when you leave that island, life will be very hard without an education.
I live an easy life because of education. My older brothers and sisters sacrifice every day just to survive, working their crops and trying to sell to other people who have no money to buy anything. I have no regrets about going to school and college, but I know that my siblings regret the choice they made to drop out of school. I know for a fact that they push their children to get as much schooling as possible, but just like me, their children see no purpose for education. I try to help them by comparing my life and my siblings’ lives, so they can understand how much easier my life is than their parents’ lives. Sometimes I feel like it’s working. I hope they will start a revolution for prosperity, and put an end to our non-education family.