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Brief history of Marist Brothers Primary School Mulivai

Br John Hazelman, FSM

13 Aug 2013

The first school in Apia that was associated with the Marist Brothers was founded in 1871 at Saleufi.

The first school in Apia that was associated with the Marist Brothers was founded in 1871 at Saleufi. The Brothers taught there for 6 years before closing the school and leaving Samoa due to different causes. In 1888, Bishop Lamaze SM who was the Vicar Apostolic of Western Oceania, visited France and made application to the Superior General of the Marist Brothers, Brother Theophane, for Brothers to re-open their mission in Apia.

Bishop Lamaze’s request was granted and on August 18, 1888 Brothers Philippe (French), Marie (German) and Hilary Francis (Australian) arrived in Apia in the company of Brother John, the Provincial Superior of Australia, under whose direction the new mission now came. The Brothers opened their school on September 4 with pupils (all part Samoans) but before the end of the year the school grew to twenty boys. The Bishop gave the Brothers a piece of land of about 2 acres near the school, planted in coconuts, bananas and taro and which was looked after by a villager in the service of the Brothers. The school was erected on about 1 acre of land nearby.

The Brothers taught mainly in English, subjects such as reading, writing, arithmetic, algebra, grammar, composition, geography and history: with French and German courses in addition. Religious Instruction was given to the Catholic boys and to those protestant pupils desirous to receive it. The first director of this school was the French Philippe.

Difficulties were to follow, but in spite of the political turmoil in and around Apia, and the consequent tensions the Brothers had to contend with, they had come this time to Samoa to stay.

In 1897, the Bishop of the time, Bishop Broyer petitioned the Marist Brothers’ Mother House for a German Brother to teach the children of German settlers and this was started by Brother Alfred (Swiss) the same year. Brother Afele remained in Samoa for the rest of his life leaving it once on 1935\36 for a short visit to New Zealand. He passed away on May 28, 1960 at the age of 81 with a record of 63 years in Samoa.

In 1892 Br Macarius, a gifted musician had arrived in Apia. In order to draw more children to the school and to assure the Brothers a better income, two brass bands were established. One of the bands was for the school children and another for the young men of Apia. They proved to be very popular both in Apia and further afield.

The first months of 1899, especially during March, Apia was in a state of turmoil. The school was closed for four months. The followers of Mata’afa and those of Malietoa were at war with each other and to make the situation worse the combined American and British warships in the harbour bombarded the town. Brothers, together with the Sisters took refuge in the presbytery which gave better protection. Brother Philippe acted as peace negotiator between the opposing factions and the American and British Admirals. A state of unrest prevailed throughout the year till the three Powers agreed on how Samoa was to be governed. This was accomplished when Germany took over the government of Western Samoa and the United States that of Eastern Samoa.

The German government ordered German to be taught to the Samoans as a second language but part Europeans were allowed to take English as well. The Brothers’ school was divided into Samoan and part Samoan sections and for the following 24 years each section was taught by two or at the most three Brothers. In 1925 both sections were amalgamated and staffing and school work became much easier. There were 125 pupils in 1902 and 320 in 1925.

In 1909 the school was situated on land that now holds the Australian High Commission facing Beach Road. It consisted of five large classrooms with 180 pupils and a staff of five Brothers. This became known as the German school. It was during this time that a good number of German - speaking Brothers came to Samoa.

When Samoa was occupied by New Zealand forces in August 1914, the teaching of German continued for another two years when German text books became unprocurable and English then became the medium of instruction. Although most of the Brothers were German nationals they were not interfered with and the school functioned normally. Relations between the Brothers and the Administration were most cordial. This came through the diplomatic skills of Brother Leo Moog, a German who was the director of the school during this time. Apart from skills in diplomacy, Leo was also a talented musician, choir master and orchestra conductor as well as a strong disciplinarian. Br Leo’s popular orchestra and band were often in demand for both church and government functions, especially at Vailima, the official residence of the administrator. It was Brother Leo who also inaugurated the Boys Scout movement in Samoa in 1920.

On June 23rd 1925, the Governor Sir George Richardson, unveiled a monument, in the form of a drinking fountain to the late Brother Hilary who was one of the first Brothers who started Mulivai. He spent 26 years in Samoa mainly teaching at Mulivai. When Beach Road was widened in 1938, the fountain was on the boundary, so the fence was slightly diverted to make it a public drinking facility maintained for a while by the Public Works Department.

Br Bernardine McCormack was the first New Zealand born director to be appointed to Mulivai in 1931. During his 9 years here, he was responsible for the introduction of many sporting activities such as rugby, soccer, English cricket, athletics and boxing, both in the school and among the old boys. These activities served to keep the old boys closely in touch with the Brothers and the school.

Through his initiative, he acquired from the Catholic Mission a large area of swamp ground between the Mulivai River and Tauese village for a sports field. A great deal of leveling and filling was necessary, and with the generous assistance of old boys and friends the work got done. Prominent in the direction of the project were Messrs Eugene Paul, Goetz (manager of the Crown Estates) and Meidecke who supplied the equipment for the leveling and filling, while the Old Boys supplied the fencing of the area.

The Second World War had little effect on the school except that the school hours were shortened. At this time the school roll soared to a record of 587 pupils with classes averaging 95 pupils per classroom. Br Raphael who arrived in Samoa around this time had a large Samoan fale built in order to relieve the pressure, especially in the primers, and he engaged first one, then a second Samoan teacher, one being Peni Vitolio, who taught for more than 45 years at Mulivai.

Fonoti Ioane Felise was another local teacher to teach more than 40 years but it was Mika Smith who was the longest serving local teacher. Mika taught more than 50 years at Marist. Among the women teachers Losa Stowers, Kalala Samuelu, Telesia Petelo, Telesia Falaniko, Malae Petelo, Imakulata Leota and Akenese Faasavalu were some of the many Samoan women who taught at Marist Brothers Primary for many years. There were also local lay teachers who became deputy principals. Steve Laban, Mika Smith and Kalala Samuelu assisting Marist Brothers who were principals. Kalala Samuelu the present acting principal is the only lay person to hold this position.

By 1970, Br Thomas Lynch was the Director of Mulivai and it was under his direction that the large recreation fields were developed. It was he who hired the government dredge ‘Palolo’ at a cost of 10,000 pounds to pump thousands of cubic yards of fill from the harbour bed in order to reclaim the vast swamp area adjacent to the school. Spreading and leveling was carried out with bulldozers hired from the Public Works Department and John Maihi of the Lands and Survey Department assisted with the levels before the planting of grass was started. This was done by each class being allotted a marked-out area to plant. The newly developed Recreation ground of 8 acres, one of the largest in Samoa, was officially opened for sport in 1973.

After some years the primer classrooms at Mulivai required upgrading in order to implement the revised syllabus, and to do so meant Year3Studentseither a major renovation of the old block, or the building of a new one.Br Claver Ward became the new Director in 1974 and he chose to build anew.At the end of 1974 work began on the construction of a six classroom block parallel to the Mulivai Stream and facing the recreation field. This block was ready for occupation in 1976. Today this block holds Years 1 to 3 classrooms.

In the early 1990’s a new two storey block was opened beside the Mulivai stream with 16 classrooms. It was sometime during these years that the present entrance to the school compound was opened at Togafuafua. Then ten years later, St Marcellin Hall was built by the back car park.

Ten years further on a new administration block was built with staff room and basement. The Convent Street extension through the school compound was opened officially in 2012. Presently, the number of classes has gone down from 24 to 16. The roll is just under 600 boys.

In 2007 MBPS was used for the Tongan athletes during the South Pacific Games. Two new toilet blocks built at that time are now used by the school.

The original St Joseph’s High School building and surrounding land between Convent Street and Beach Road is now leased by the Marist Brothers Old Pupils Association. In 2012, a school dental clinic was built in the corner of the back car park. Sometimes we held the Catholic Primary School Festival Games in our grounds in August.

Brother Iulio Suaesi was the first Samoan Brother to become the Principal of Mulivai. Other principals during the past 30 years have been Brothers Donald, Kenneth, Gordon, Edward, Kalolo, Siaosi, Chris Maney and Kevin Hore.

Compiled by Brother John Hazelman from the writings of Brothers Jerome Devlin and Bernard O’Malley.

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