Students shine at flag raising welcome ceremony

Hundreds of primary school students from across Samoa welcomed delegations from the first eight countries to arrive at the Samoa 2019 Pacific Games at a joyous ceremony in Mulinu’u on Thursday.

The students braved intermittent rain to perform anthems and traditional dances from French Polynesia, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia as the flags of those countries were raised on the lawns of Falefono.

Sene Palepua, the vice principal of Maile Primary School that represented Palau at the ceremony, said her 445 students rose to the challenge of learning Palau’s national anthem, despite its unfamiliar words and sounds.

“It’s not an easy job to adopt a country, especially the language, but we tried very hard,” Sene said.

“We seldom get people from Palau here in Samoa so there was no one to ask, and just we tried our best listening to the pronunciations on Youtube. The students loved it and the Palauan people who are here, they loved our performance and they said the pronunciation was very good.

“Today is a big achievement for our school and pupils to not only perform another country’s national anthem, but also to learn their dances. We’ve been preparing for about four weeks and, even though we’ve had exams at the same time, we didn’t want to miss this. It’s a chance for the kids to make history.”

Tonga’s chef de mission, Netina Latu, said the 350 students of Vailele Primary School, which has ‘adopted’ the Kingdom of Tonga, did her country proud.

“It’s very heartwarming to come to Samoa knowing that we have the backing of Vailele Primary School,” Netina said.

“After seeing today’s performance, we are beyond grateful for their support. They
learnt three different songs and dances and performed them perfectly, it was just fantastic.”

Flag raising ceremonies will continue on Friday and Saturday as the remaining 16 countries are welcomed to Samoa by a total of 1,300 students from the 24 primary and secondary schools they have been paired with, including four from Savai’i.

The programme is an initiative of Samoa’s Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (MESC) in collaboration with the Pacific Games Office.