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History of St. Joseph’s College in a nut shell


21 Mar 2022

St Joseph’s College was the first secondary school to be established in Samoa. It opened in doors to 19 Third Form students in February 1950 and were housed in the yet to be completed two-storey concrete building with Brother Jerome Devlin as its first Principal.


St Joseph’s College was the first secondary school to be established in Samoa. It opened in doors to 19 Third Form students in February 1950 and were housed in the yet to be completed two-storey concrete building with Brother Jerome Devlin as its first Principal.

Those students were: Petelo Vitale Mauga (Tafitoala), Harry Frost (Fa’ato’ia), Lino Fepulea’i (Nofoali’i), Mikaele Fepulea’i (Nofoali’i), John (Lau) Young (Vaisigano), Ioane Ah Yo (Tua’efu), John Fruean (Tufui’opa), Antepera Jacob Lee (Papauta), Albert Silvar Mafua (Salouafata), Pama Faitalia (Lefagaoli’i Savai’i), Mareko Samoa (Sato’alepai Savai’i), Keneti Felaga’i (Magiagi), Lu’uga Atonia (Mulivai), Heinrich Meredith, Gustav Tedemann (Lepea), Otto Galea’i (Leone, Tutuila) Anipati Mailo (Fagatogo Tutuila), Jack Manuel Betham, Otto Haywood Taylor.

However, the plan to build a Marist Brothers’ Secondary School was hatched three years earlier in 1947 soon after Mr Lambie, the newly appointed Director of Education for (Western) Samoa, had announced that Secondary Education would be his first priority.

Fearing that many of their primary school students would end up in a Government secondary school, the Brothers decided that building a secondary school would enable them to cater for the educational need of their students, who want to continue their education beyond the primary level.

Finding a suitable site became a major concern as Mulivai was already congested. The Brothers looked for and negotiated unsuccessfully for land at either Moamoa or Mt Vaea with Bishop Darnard. While the Bishop gave the project his wholehearted support, he could not accommodate the Brothers’ request for land as Moamoa or Mt Vaea as land there had already been earmarked for other projects. In the end, the Brothers decided to build at Mulivai.

With no funds, the Brothers had to look for donations as well as the support of some prominent Old Boys, to get the project off the ground. Meetings took place and plans for fund raising where put into action.

SJC FiafiaBother Alfred (Afele) Blenke who had just celebrated his 50 years of service in Samoa was the first to donate when he handed over all the monetary gifts he received from well-wishers. Bishop Darnard donated the first £1000 and the Afioga a Fautua, Tupua Tamasese and Malietoa Tanumafili donated £2000 from their joint account. The Old Boys Association and the District Ladies Committees organized numerous fund raising activities, in addition to donating to and helping run bazaars and raffles. More than £10,000 was eventually raised.

Work on the two-storey building started in March 1949.

Self-reliance, as manifested in the building of Mulivai, and in later years, Lotopa and Alafua, is what defines the “Marist Spirit”. To help with the Mulivai building, the Brothers and students sometimes collected sand, shingles and stones from the Vaisigano River, using baskets (ato’ato).

One noted old boy, Mr Eugene Paul, placed his lorries at the Brothers’ disposal, which helped cart loads of sand, shingles and stones that ensured the project was completed on time.

That the College was opened at the start of the 1950 school year is not only attestation to the commitment the Marist Brothers have to give the young people of Samoa the best education possible but to the cooperation and support of their Old Boys in making sure that commitment live on.


In the decade that followed, St Joseph’s College’s Roll had grown, necessitating a shift to a new site. A seven acre estate at Lotopa, previously the home of the Samoa “Country Club”’ was bought with a £20,000 loan from the Bank of New Zealand.

In 1960, St Joseph’s College was relocated to Lotopa.

The upstairs of the two-storey homestead wooden building which doubled as the Country Club that stood on the estate was turned into the Brothers’ accommodation. A large room downstairs which was the Bar became classroom to the Form 3A students. The combined Form 4 and Form 5 were housed under the front porch which doubled as a garage. Next to the two-storey building was a newly erected building of wooden posts held together by beams and a corrugated iron roof. It had no walls except for a partition in the middle which separated Form 2 and Form 3B.

For many students, there was a certain novelty about coming to Lotopa as it was an out-of-town place. More exciting for those living on Apia side, they were now heading to school in the same direction as the St Mary’s College girls. The downside of this which many did not mind was that, students who used to walk to Mulivai from Vailele and Letogo, now had to trek further inland to Lotopa. Others who cycled all the way from Leulumoega and Mulifanua on the other hand had had their trip shortened albeit not by much. The important thing for students of Lotopa then was, no matter how hard the struggle, there was a certain buzz about coming to school because getting a secondary education was a privilege and many a parent would spare nothing to make sure their children would get one.

Assembly @ LotopaAssembly on the first day was brief. Students were welcomed to the new school by Principal, Br Casimir Foley. He was renowned for making things happen. It was therefore fitting that he become the first Principal of St Joseph’s at Lotopa as there was much physical work to be done as the whole estate was covered in cocoa, coconut trees, and weeds. (A couple of years earlier, Br Casimir had been instrumental in getting the Brothers three-storey residence at Mulivai built.)

The first teachers at Lotopa were Br Casimir, Br Claver, Br Owen, and Deacon Vaueli Palamo who was from the well-known Palamo family of Vaimoso.

At the first assembly after classes had been allocated, the instructions came that every student was to bring a bush knife or an axe the following day; the whole school was to spend the day clearing the land to make way for the playing field. Every student turned up with a knife or axe the next day. And by lunch time, the whole ground was like a war zone, strewn with fallen trees.

For the next few months, every Friday was spent clearing the ground of coconut logs and weed with lower classes taking turns.

Classes during the first year were often disrupted by rain which drove horizontally from the side and rear of the rooms forcing students to congregate in the middle where they were able to stay dry. Persistent rain meant classes had to be dismissed. Much of this is no doubt etched into the memory of the many old boys’ pioneers of Lotopa.

Lotopa BuildingTwo more blocks were later added and again, the students contributed much by helping make bricks, mix and lay concrete floors and carting stones from the Fuluasou River or pebbles from Lauli’i beach. Whenever carpenter Vitale from Letogo wanted a pair of hands to help with construction work, there was no shortage of volunteers. One could almost say that helping built the school and raising money for development was a compulsory part of the students’ curricula. There was even an occasions when the whole school spent a Friday at the Magiagi Cemetery after the Brothers had bid and won a Lands and Survey Department tender to cut the grass and clear the rubbish which amused many passers-by and attracted sneering from students of a nearby Government College.

Despite having to struggle because of the lack of funds and educational resources and the non-existence of amenities which Government schools took for granted, St Joseph’s showed that its students could still compete and achieve well academically. Because St Joseph’s was not accredited to teach University Entrance, (Education in Samoa then was still under NZ’s Department of Education’s jurisdiction), one of its top student had to leave Lotopa at the end of 1960 to study for his UE at Samoa College. That he was the first Samoan-born and educated to graduate with a Bachelor of Engineering in his specific field is a testimony both to his academic prowess and the way the Brothers had instilled in their students the will and grit to succeed and to make the most of opportunities that come their way.

In 1962, the Brothers sought accreditation for St Joseph’s to teach UE. This was duly granted following a visit from the NZ Department of Education to assess whether it had qualified teachers, educational resources and quality facilities for teaching the UE Curriculum. The following year, present Prime Minister Tuila’epa Sailele Malielegaoi became the College’s first UE student. He graduated several years later from the University of Auckland with a Master of Commerce degree – the first student from Samoa to do so.

With the proposed opening of Chanel College at Moamoa in 1962, the Brothers in 1961 again became concerned. Lotopa_photoThe threat of losing their top students from Mulivai to another college posed a decade earlier when the establishment of Samoa College was announced, had again reared its head. Strategist Br Casimir once again came up with the solution which included approaching their Provincial Superior in New Zealand to provide the St Joseph’s with good teachers for mathematics and science, and English. As a result Br Fintan (now Pat Buckley), an outstanding mathematics and science teacher and a highly successful rugby coach, and Br Edgar who was an English and French teacher as well as an outstanding athletics coach joined St Joseph’s at the beginning of 1962 along with Brother Humprey who taught geography. It was a master stroke by Br Casimir as many top students from Mulivai in the years that followed chose to continue with their secondary education at Lotopa. The Brothers who taught at Lotopa can count among their students today’s many eminent citizens such as Chief Justice Patu Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu and other members of the Judiciary, Prime Minister Tuila’epa Lupesloiai Sailele Malielegaoi and many MPs, Governor of the Central Bank Leasi Papali’i Tommy Scanlan and many in the Banking industry, as well as a host of our today’s successful business and professional leaders.


As early as 1962, the Brothers came to realise that the Lotopa site might have become too small for St Joseph’s needs with its fast growing student roll. It now needed more space and bigger facilities if its academic and sporting achievements were to continue. BrCasmir@AlafuaAfter approval was sought and gained from the Marist Brothers Trust Board Council of New Zealand and the General Council of the Marist Brothers’ Congregation based in Rome, a 20-acre property at Alafua which formed part of the Hufnagel-Beetham Estate was purchased at the cost of £550 per acre – a total of £11,000.

Once acquired, the Brothers set to work to utilize the Alafua property to generate income to help pay the loans that financed its purchase. With advice from the then Department of Agriculture, overgrown unproductive cocoa trees were felled to be replaced by a banana plantation which yields were exported to New Zealand. Ravaged by the bunchy-top disease, coupled with the collapse of the New Zealand market which was now importing its bananas from Ecuador and the Philippines several years later, the banana export venture ended. A shed, constructed near the Alafua Rd for packing the exported bananas later became Clubrooms for the Marist-St Joseph’s Rugby Team.

Alafua constEarly in 1987 after the sale of six acres where Don Bosco now stands, to the Salesians Congregation for $180,000, ground leveling work began on the sixteen acres left. Service of old boys like La’ulu Henry Westerlund who used his heavy machinery for leveling the grounds and for trucking in landfill, and Muagututi’a George Meredith who provided architectural work was called upon and was willingly given at highly discounted rates, even free sometimes. Others influence like that of Hon. George Lober, who was then Minister of Justice, was solicited to help secure Funds from the Canadian Government’s Aid for Development Projects which greatly helped in meeting the costs of the first major phase of the Alafua Development. Fe’esago Siaosi (George) Fepulea’i who was Samoa’s Ambassador in Brussels, (interestingly, he never attended Marist Brothers School or St Joseph’s College), was instrumental in the Brothers and Old Boys securing an European Community Grant of (Euro) €268,550 (WST$800,000) that enabled the Alafua Project to proceed. Alafua ConstructionA year later, he was again instrumental in the College securing another Grant of (German) Deutsch-mark 860,000 which helped built the Administration Block. Brother Iulio Suaesi, another prominent old boy played his part in decision-making as he was the District Superior of the Marist Brothers District council. One could go on and name hundreds of other old boys who contributed resources and time, but suffice to say, the development of St Joseph’s College has always been a collaborative effort by both the Old Boys and the Brothers.

1988 was the year St Joseph’s College was to be relocated to Alafua. The sudden death of the indefatigable Br Casimir on 21 April, however, put everything on hold. Virtually everyone in Samoa knew who Br Casimir was and the tributes that flowed in lauded his heroic effort in his mission and dedication to the education of the youths of Samoa during his 40 years here. (In an interview with the Marist Old Boys monthly newspaper in 1984, Br Casimir referred to Samoa as his home and said that he wanted to be buried here when his time come.) So much of St Joseph’s development was Br Casimir’s vision and dream, firstly Mulivai, then Lotopa and most significantly, Alafua. To him, stopping St Joseph’s development because there were no funds was never an option.

In the late 1980s, the Marist Old Boys Association was meeting regularly to plan the construction of their Hall which now stands at the Alafua compound. Old Boys in the United States, New Zealand, Australia and American Samoa also contributed by organizing fundraising activities for the representatives of the Old Boys’ Association from Samoa who had travelled over to raise funds for the project.

fiafiaLike Mulivai and Lotopa, Alafua students again played a very important part in the development of the present St Joseph’s by forming working bees who worked tirelessly to clean up the buildings site, level soil mounts to make way for playing fields, and landscape their campus.

On 28 March, 1989, straight after the Easter break, St Joseph’s College was relocated to Alafua.

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