School and family life, island style: Why students fly to high school

A Nuku Hiva elementary school. Children on Nuku Hiva attend school on the island until high school when they fly to Tahiti for school.

Young children on Nuku Hiva grow up tending to farm animals and running free on the island until high school when they move to Tahiti and fly home for holidays.

Hey kids, here's one of several Nuku Hiva Elementary Schools!  How would you like to go to school here?  How would you like to have your own horses, pigs, goats, chickens, who roam the neighborhood at will?  How would you like to pick fruit off of your own fruit trees every morning?  How would you like to get into the truck every few days to go collect fresh drinking water from the running stream?  Below is a pic of Justin drinking fresh water from the stream out of a silly rum bottle.  We recycle glass bottles aboard so we don't have to drink out of plastic.  

We wondered why we hadn't seen any high school and college kids, and that's because the high schools and junior university are in Tahiti. The Polynesian government subsidizes the high school kids' airfare back to their home islands for holidays, but college kids must pay their own way. After one year in college in Tahiti, the students must compete for one of two scholarships offered, apply for university in France and secure a student loan, or enlist in the French Polynesian or French armies.

Justin enjoys the fresh stream water that he drinks from a recycled rum bottle. Kids on Nuku Hiva help collect water from streams for their families.

This is because there are few job opportunities and land ownership opportunities back on the home islands.  This has kept the islands pristine but also encourages younger generations to seek financial stability away from home.  Not until the Europeans came around was the concept of land ownership pertinent to island life.  Unfortunately, now many family lands and homes cannot be enjoyed by anyone because too many family members cannot agree on how to divide up the ownership rites.  Of a family of 100 relatives, who the heck gets the two bedroom house?!

Taking care of cows and horses is part of everyday life for children on Nuku Hiva.

Posted on May 2, 2015 .