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Papa’aroa School (classroom), c. 1945.

Photo courtesy of South Pacific Division Heritage Centre.

Papa’aroa Adventist College, Cook Islands

By Milton Hook

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Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

Papa’aroa Adventist College is located at Titikaveka, on Rarotonga, Cook Isands. It offers classes from elementary level to grade 10. It is administered by the Cook Islands Mission, a mission organization in the New Zealand Pacific Union Conference, South Pacific Division.

Beginnings

Harold and Madeline Wicks served two mission terms in the Cook Islands, 1915 through 1920 and 1927 through 1938. They became friends of their Roman Catholic neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Brown, New Zealand owners of the plantation called Papa’aroa, to the west of the Titikaveka SDA Church. When Mr. Brown passed away, his wife returned to New Zealand, leasing the property long-term to the mission.1 Arthur Jacobson arrived as a replacement for Wicks and took command of mission activities. It was on the plantation that he began classes in 1938, teaching Bible and English. The enterprise was virtually self-supporting because of the sale of coconuts, oranges, and bananas that he shipped from the plantation to New Zealand markets. The students also spent their afternoons cultivating their own food crops such as sweet potatoes, taro, and tomatoes.2 It became known as the Cook Islands Training School.3

Gathering Strength

Lionel Maxwell succeeded Jacobson through the uncertain period of the war years, 1941/1942,4 the school functioning intermittently until James Cormack arrived in 1943 to devote much of his time to strengthening the program. Joseph Vati assisted him, enabling the curriculum to be extended to homiletics, British history, and singing. The English classes were an advanced level, and the chosen Bible subject was Daniel and Revelation.5

In 1946 Nelson Palmer taught the students, followed by Donald Watson for a three- year term. Vati continued to assist and was joined by Henry Moala. A photograph from Watson’s time indicates there were approximately forty in the school family, some being young married couples with children.6 Successive principals during the 1950s were John Cernik,7 Joseph Miller,8 Kenneth Gray,9 Roy Wilkinson,10 and Robert Gotts.11

The name of the school was altered slightly in the early 1960s to Cook Islands Missionary School.12 During this decade the entire annual staffing was sometimes drawn from national teachers,13 and finances continued to be significantly enhanced by the sale of plantation fruit to New Zealand.14 The only expatriate teachers were Murray Askin, 1961, and Stanley Thompson, 1962 through 1965.15

Moves Toward National Identity

A further name change was made in 1977 when the institution became known as the Papa’aroa Central School, retaining the Maori name of the plantation property.16 In the Maori language common to the Cook Islands papa is interpreted “broad flat earth covered with vegetation,” and aroha is interpreted “love.” The name Papa’aroa College was adopted in 1981 when some high school levels were added. Athol Grosse became the principal, assisted by eight Cook Islanders.17 The first national principal, Teina Taivairanga, was elected in 1987.18 By this stage the top high school level offered at the institution was form 2, a situation that stabilized over the long term.19 It was, therefore, essentially a junior high school, its position better reflected in yet another name change in 2003 to Papa’aroa High School, when Gregory Taikakara was principal.20

Over the past four decades the Papa’aroa school has been the recipient of generous charity from church members. Peter Kilgour, a member of Dundas church in Sydney, taught as a volunteer at Papa’aroa during 1979 and returned to promote the needs of the school. His fellow members donated a wood-turning lathe and also raised more than $4,000 for the school by conducting a music festival.21 In 1982, 15 volunteers from New Zealand, some Cook Islanders among them, built a new elementary block of three rooms in addition to a library and toilet facilities.22 A second team went from Avondale College to do painting and major repairs in 1993.23 Seven sewing machines were donated by Australian church members in 2003.24 Mountain View Adventist College in Sydney, where there is a strong Cook Island presence, donated a minibus in 2017.25 Not all gifts have come from overseas. A local baker, Rau Atuatika and his wife, Tui, who are SDA owners of Turoa Bakery at Titikaveka, donated bread rolls to the school tuck shop for years.26

The year 1981 was notable for its academic achievements. At that time Papa’aroa College at the secondary level received the highest pass rate in the Cook Islands. One student gained the highest score in geography.27 Recently the principal, Harry Neale, reported that the teaching staff are well qualified and the students demonstrate a keen interest to learn. He highlighted the core values of the school as “Grow, Learn, and Serve.” Enrollment numbers are increasing.28 Currently (2018) there are seven teachers to serve 120 students ranging from the elementary level to grade 10 high school level.29

Sources

Bowman, N[orman] J. “A Layman Visits Rarotonga, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji.” Australasian Record, July 3, 1939.

Chestnut, Paula. “A Third for Dundas.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, 1980).

Cormack, J[ames] E. “News From the Cook Islands.” Australasian Record, July 10, 1944.

Eliu, Eliu. “Generous Gift Helps Island School.” Adventist Record, March 4, 2017.

“From the Cook Islands comes the message . . .” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, March 22, 1982.

Lee, Gordon A. “Meeting the Challenge of the Hour.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, February 12, 1968.

Lockton, Harwood. “Colleges Give to Each Other.” Record, November 6, 1993.

“Mission News Roundup.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, August 28, 1982.

“Modern Day Manna in Rarotonga.” Record, April 25, 1992.

“Papaaroa Announces Six New School Leaders.” Cook Island News, February 26, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.cookislandsnews.com/item/67869-papaaroa-announces-six-new-school-leaders/67869-papaaroa.

Porter, G[eorge] C. “New Atui Primary School Opened.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, June 18, 1979.

Porter, May, compiler. “Missionaries to the Cook Islands, 1891–1991.” Personal collection of May Porter, Hornsby Heights, Sydney.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Hagerstown, Maryland: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1984–2014.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1946–1983.

Watson, D[onald] H. “The Cook Islands Training School.” Australasian Record, August 15, 1949.

Notes

  1. May Porter, interview with Milton Hook, Hornsby Heights, Sydney, August 12, 2019.

  2. N[orman] J. Bowman, “A Layman Visits Rarotonga, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji,” Australasian Record, July 3, 1939, 4.

  3. “Cook Islands Training School,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1946), 237.

  4. “Cook Islands Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1942), 61.

  5. J[ames] E. Cormack, “News From the Cook islands,” Australasian Record, July 10, 1944, 4.

  6. D[onald] H. Watson, “The Cook Islands Training School,” Australasian Record, August 15, 1949, 5, 6.

  7. E.g., “Cook Islands Training School,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1950), 257.

  8. E.g., “Cook Islands Training School,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1953), 241.

  9. E.g., “Cook Islands Training School,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1955), 206.

  10. E.g., “Cook Islands Training School,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1957), 212.

  11. E.g., “Cook Islands Training School,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1959), 223.

  12. “Cook Islands Missionary School,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1962), 244.

  13. E.g., “Cook Islands Missionary School,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1968), 287.

  14. Gordon A. Lee, “Meeting the Challenge of the Hour,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, February 12, 1968, 10–12.

  15. May Porter, compiler, “Missionaries to the Cook Islands, 1891–1991,” personal collection of May Porter, Hornsby Heights, Sydney.

  16. “Papaaroa Central School,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1977), 374.

  17. “Papaaroa College,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1981), 391.

  18. “Papaaroa College,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, Maryland: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1987), 440.

  19. E.g., “Papaaroa College,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, Maryland: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2000), 473.

  20. “Papaaroa High School,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, Maryland: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2003), 425.

  21. Paula Chestnut, “A Third for Dundas,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, February 18, 1980, 9.

  22. “Mission News Roundup,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, August 28, 1982, 11.

  23. Harwood Lockton, “Colleges Give to Each Other,” Record, November 6, 1993, 12.

  24. “Papaaroa Adventist College, Rarotonga . . . ,” Record, February 15, 2003,  3.

  25. Eliu Eliu, “Generous Gift Helps Island School,” Adventist Record, March 4, 2017.

  26. “Modern Day Manna in Rarotonga,” Record, April 25, 1992, 11.

  27. “From the Cook Islands comes the message . . . ,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, March 22, 1982, 16.

  28. “Papaaroa Announces Six New School Leaders,” Cook Island News, February 26, 2017, accessed July 1, 2019, https://www.cookislandsnews.com/item/67869-papaaroa-announces-six-new-school-leaders/67869-papaaroa.

  29. Rosalie McFarlane, email to Milton Hook, September 11, 2018.

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Hook, Milton. "Papa’aroa Adventist College, Cook Islands." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 09, 2021. Accessed January 21, 2021. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8825.

Hook, Milton. "Papa’aroa Adventist College, Cook Islands." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 09, 2021. Date of access January 21, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8825.

Hook, Milton (2021, January 09). Papa’aroa Adventist College, Cook Islands. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved January 21, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8825.