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Four rejections motivated Tongan scholarship winner

Mar 27th, 2013 | By | Category: Latest News, News

SIONE HAPA had to tell his wife to stop jumping so much because she was pregnant when they heard he had won a scholarship to Victoria University.

After more than a decade of trying and five attempts it felt like a lottery win for the Tongan man.

Mr Hapa (31) received the scholarship from the Tongan Government to study music in New Zealand.

“It was like winning the lottery. Me and my wife were jumping for joy,” says Mr Hapa, who arrived in Wellington in February.

Then he told his wife to stop jumping so much because she was pregnant.

He and family and friends celebrated in the Tongan tradition of drinking kava, a drink made sweeter because of the number of times the teacher had applied for the scholarship.

A couple of years after completing high school he applied for the first time.

After so many rejections he says his wife Malia was sure he did not have a chance in getting accepted.

“She said ‘you are too old, that’s only for kids’.”

Mr Hapa is studying a Bachelor of Music (Composition) but is first involved in an English programme at Victoria because English is not his first language.

Musical experience is no problem for Mr Hapa, who is a skilled trumpet player, music teacher and a band master at a Catholic school in Tonga.

His interest in music and his Catholic faith have already led him to the local choir at St Mary of the Angels parish.

Mr Hapa intends to complete his studies and return to Tonga to continue teaching music.

The scholarship covers Mr Hapa’s tuition fees, books and stationery, accommodation fees, travel and living allowance.

While the scholarship looks after practical aspects, Mr Hapa is missing his family.

Mr Hapa’s wife, who is due to give birth in May, and their three-year-old daughter will not join him in New Zealand.

Being the eldest child of seven and the only child in New Zealand, missing family is one of the struggles Mr Hapa finds the hardest.

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