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Talanoa Ako - Pacific Talk About Education and Learning (TA PTEL)

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Tāhūrangi is the new online curriculum hub for Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga | Ministry of Education.

Talanoa Ako Pacific Talk About Education and Learning (TA PTEL) is a suite of programmes led by Strategy and Integration, Pacific Team in Ākonga and Community Delivery, Te Pae Aronui.

The flagship programme Talanoa Ako undertook a longitudinal study using Pacific methodologies to engage Pacific voice from parents, learners, families, and educators in Pacific education.

The study's insights have prompted the development of 12 programmes directly addressing the needs of Pacific communities, as well as the creation of TA PTEL (Talanoa Ako Pacific Talk About Education) resources.

The Team utilises Matamoana: As and By Pacific Theory and Approach to enhance Pacific learners' achievement and attendance.

Talanoa Ako - Pacific Talk About Education and Learning vignettes

Watch and listen to the organic voices of Pacific learners, faith leaders, academic leaders, public servants and community leaders.

The vignettes are dedicated to a champion of Pacific Education, Fa’anānā Efeso Collins, who exemplified leadership in advancing the lives of the Pacific diaspora and supporting the work of Talanoa Ako.

These are unscripted Talanoa. Authentic Pacific voices share – from their own hearts and minds – dreams, hopes, and aspirations for Pacific educational success.  

Dreams and aspirations for Pacific education  



Fa’anānā Efeso Collins: One thing that I would say is that my approach to life and to the things that I do is driven by the fact that I’m a little bit broken, that I’m a little bit angry but I’m also a little bit hopeful. And I think there are a lot of parents who’ll be watching this series of videos who will be feeling exactly the same thing, and often we try and suppress those feelings because there’s kids immediately before us who need our full attention.

I want parents in particular to know that we’re all in this journey in a similar vein and in a similar fashion, we’ve all got similar aspirations for our young people, we’ve also got similar pain that we carry through and it’s important that we are able to take the pain and the frustration and try to find ways to channel it in a way that’s going to propel our community forward – and I look back over my life as a youth worker and the things that I’ve struggled with in with mental illness, with depression and I think it is possible to grapple with those issues and still lead the very blessed life that I am leading today and so my first parent, well my first message to the parents would be a thank you message – would be you’re doing a great job, with all that you have with what is in your basket before you now, I wanna say thank you. I look at my own parents and that’s all I can do is say thank you. 

I’ve often challenged my parents as to why they came to New Zealand in the first place where we were thrown all sorts of stereotypes and racist attitudes, but they kept going, and that for me has been a huge lesson in just keeping trying, keep going and don’t give up and so I wanna say thank you to our parents. 

I wanna say thank you to our teachers as well, it’s tough, we do, I think there’s a thing called teacher we celebrate teacher day and we do it one day in the year I think we should be doing it the whole school year because I look back and remember the teachers who had a huge impact on my life, I also had a couple of teachers who were a bit useless but that’s okay I’ve forgiven them and I’ve let it go but I’ll never forget the teachers who had a huge impact in my life and that’s why I ended up going on to University. 

And so I think my message is one of thank you but its also one of "we can do this", we can see better days, there is hope for our community but we’ve got to understand that it’s important we channel the hurt and the frustration, that we get it out of our systems, that our churches are there supporting us all the way through and that our children are going to have the added benefit of seeing life through all of our lenses and hopefully their experiences are gonna be just as good, hopefully their experiences are gonna take our community a little bit further so that we all benefit and I’m wary that we might have some challenges because we are exposed to a very western society so we’ve gotta balance it out, we’ve still gotta have church it’s still good to have churches, it’s still good to have the cultural requirements on them because then they get an understanding of how you have to balance life and I think it was Professor Anne-Marie Tupuola, who’s a good Victoria graduate who talks about how we walk on the edges. We’ve got the edge of our world which is the Samoan Pacific world and its demands and then the edge of the western world and its demands in an education system that sometimes stands in stark contrast to what our lived experience is.

That’s what makes us so cool, that’s what makes us more talented than others is because we can walk the edges we can define movements, we can move to parts where others might not be able to go but we can do it because we’re pretty fluid and so we should be proud of that. Those are things that the world is demanding now in a skillset for work. Hey, half the jobs coming out of any government department now say can you speak another language, can you speak the reo, can you speak Samoan, those are things that we have that are built in the home all the time we were telling our kids in the 80’s like me, I had reports that said "don’t speak any more Samoan at home" and now it’s being demanded of for work so we’ve got all of this capital that we bring to the world so be proud, be excited and don’t stop, keep going ‘cos I think there’s a great future for all of us and young people if you’re listening there’s a thing called Kiwisaver – and that’s what you are to Mum and Dad.

You might have your own KiwiSaver but just remember when it’s time for a fa’alavelave it’s you that’s gonna get the phone call and we can challenge a little bit on the side but in the main we are gonna have to give.  I’m excited for the future but I am driven by my frustration and my hurt and my anger and the two are possible. You can bring the two steams together and hopefully what comes out the chimney is something absolutely beautiful.

Tagaloatele Emeritus Professor Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop: As my parents did because my mother worked in a factory all her life so we could go to school and my father worked as well. I think you try and teach your children and support them and that’s why the parents role is so important, the parents and the community to, you know, to go for gold to really use every talent that you have and so that does require discipline to task, not discipline to body, discipline to task and completion of tasks. Its just I guess to try and teach them good study skills and support their study skills but also giving them the time to do it.

Ofa Puleiku: Individuality being yourself, just not being afraid to stand up and say ‘hey world, I’m Ofa and there’s nothing you can do to change me’ so yeah.

Saimoni Lealea: It’s all about a system that's empowering, that's about responsive. It’s about working along with the students. It’s about understanding people's, students' capability to keep the background and working with them. And it's not about brainwashing people. It's not about imposing notions and that, you know, that it's not part of the students' view of the world for instance

Lesina Pereira: I think that teachers should generally just try and find an interest some sort of interest that suits them in Pacific knowledge of Pacific students, I think that at my school, at my old college, there were heaps of opportunities such as: we had Pacific fonos that teachers were welcome to come to, we had homework clubs for Pacific students that teachers would come to and I think that as Pacific students we can definitely see which teachers are genuinely interested in it and genuinely try to make an effort to battle the stereotypes.

Ali Leota: To senior leadership members across tertiary education I think for Pacific to really reach their potential and succeed in their educational journeys and chase their dreams and aspirations, we need to move beyond a cultural competency approach. Competency essentially is just a flash word for ticking a box and we need a go beyond that and really celebrate our cultural approach and move to somewhere like cultural humility where we know that our Pacific people are the experts and we need to look up to them to support our own Pacific students moving forward.

Fuetanoa KoseSeinafo: So to our teachers, all I say is take the time to get to know your learners. Understand where they come from, what they bring to your classroom and that they're part of a family, a whānau, an aiga and a community and the beauty that they bring with them.  Utilise that knowledge so that supports your planning and the context that you're going to use in your lesson plans.  The resources that you're going to bring,  contacts and support that you utilise that and maybe even the languages that you would utilise to deliver your curriculum. We’ve got a huge focus on localised curriculum, our community are part of the local curriculum, bring the beauty of our Pacific cultures, our Pacific languages, the identity and language and culture that they live within every day into your classroom.

Pacific education and education leaders 



Fa’atili Iosua Esera: Great to have this opportunity to talk with you, I’m Fa’atili Iosua Esera and I’m a school principal and I have been a principal for 35 years. Currently I am the Principal of Sutton Park School in Māngere and in my school, my school we call it a bilingual school mainly because we’ve got two bilingual units and one rumaki unit. 

I believe that the best way forward for Pacific students in New Zealand education is the use of their own language for learning. You don’t need any researchers to tell us that language is so critical to learning that if the language is English and a child just migrate or is from Tonga or Samoa or other islands who do not have the proficiency in English, you don’t need to have a degree to know that that child will struggle in education. 

The biggest strength of Pacific kids that are not being used in the classroom is the fact that they are actually starting to become bilingual cause they play around with languages, they started them from the moment they are born.  So to use their language and incorporate their language into what happens in the classroom, is critical. 

The definition of Pacific success now will have to involve language. Basically the three things that I’m looking at is one, is the political world to actually make learning happen for Pacific kids.  Second is the use of their languages for learning and that will involve a lot of changes not only within the Ministry, our pre-service training, our teaching council, as well as our universities. We need to actually have a look at what we can actually do to actually push and support the use of the children’s language for learning. 

Our parents are very keen to see their children and the message I often convey to our children, our children do not have farms, their parents do not have assets, their parents, most of their parents don’t have life insurance, so they are the future of their families and that’s why the parents are so keen to see their children get an education, so support for parents is critical. And finally, support for principals. We have a lot of principals with great hearts who actually support learning for all their children and in terms of Pasifika students and their learning our principals need a lot of support.

Tagaloatele Emeritus Professor Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop: Talofa lava, o lo’u igoa o Tagaloatele Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop. I guess I’ve been working in education most of my life from primary school teacher to education lecturer at teachers’ college through primary school teaching in New Zealand schools, mainly Porirua and Māori schools in New Zealand. And then in Samoa at the Teachers College and then at the University of the South Pacific and then sort of going a bit more globally working for UN before I came back to New Zealand. 

If you had asked me are we doing better in education at the moment, I’m a bit in two minds. To me it’s quite worrying that we are doing better right through the systems in terms of passes but then so are the palagi’s. So if you like we can say "yes, we are doing better" but the gap has not reduced because they are also doing better so that’s something that we have to concentrate on in our actual teaching and learning practice but so that’s one thing we have to keep in mind, how can we reduce the gap and that’s also related to Pacific ideals of what success is, which we can touch on again later but the worrying thing to me is that there are gender equities in Pacific achievement when I looked at the data a few years ago, women, girls are doing much better than males.

So there’s some a dynamic in there that we’ve gotta work out what is happening, why are males not doing so well and also the other thing that is quite worrying is that within the Pacific community itself, there is an even greater disparity and by generation but also of those who have made it and those who are finding it very hard even to get you know, daily food and security let alone support their children’s education success so there’s a growing diversity within the Pacific community as well.

If we’re looking at educational success and mainly through that PowerUP programme which has been running, looking at the data the main thing was that parents, if we’re looking at parents as the main motivators and supporters for children, for students and for students learning, parents did not know the systems, they do not just do not know the systems. I mean, I have trouble with NCEA and I’m I have trouble with NCEA you know, what courses do you take? So number one is that parents really need to be better informed. Now schools were saying that you know, we run evenings, we do this, we do that but most of the evenings were in English, often they were once offers so you know it takes a while to learn about a system.

When parents really understand and come to know a process better than they can make decisions around the process like giving time you know, negotiating do you need to go to church five nights a week to do things there or are you going to have, are we going to, you know, just negotiate the use of time because that’s what students also need, an understanding of the workload and a time to do it and not be running around doing all other jobs, to support the family which is important but which may not directly contribute and may indeed hamper significantly their educational progress and achievement you know, doing their homework, but the other thing is about that programme which I learnt about PowerUP was there was, as parents learnt, they also learnt to engage in learning with their children and support their homework ,you know, not just sort of say, as I can remember with a lot of busy Pacific parents you know "go and do your homework" so you go and do your homework. Well yes, you go and do your homework but I also have a bit of an idea about what you are doing and I can come and look and affirm what you’re doing so there’s that affirmation of between a child and parent at that academic, if we can call it, academic level as well as you know, at the love level.

Lealamanu’a Aiga Caroline Mareko: Talofa lava malo le soifua, my name is Lealamanu’a Aiga Caroline Mareko. Currently, I’m Senior manager of Communities in Participation for He Whanau Manaaki Kindergartens.  We’re quite a large organisation within this region in that we have a hundred and three services and within those services, we have five Pasifika kindergartens that are specifically Pacific language or Pacific focus within our organisation. 

The biggest thing that still plays on my mind is that we still talk about the tale of Pasifika success and that  I know that within the education sector, everyone is doing their best to try and turn that tale and there has been some inroads in educational success for our Pasifika students from early learning to tertiary, there’s still a lot more work to be done. I think what worries me the most is our teachers and that is about adhering to what our families and our parents have been saying over for the last two to three decades about wanting their children to succeed but our schools and our early childhood services haven’t really been culturally responsive to our children in what they bring into an early childhood service or into a school or into a tertiary sector, and I’m talking about their being Samoan or Tongan, now we’ve got more mixed ethnicities within our families, where you know our children are not all full, full born into that ethnicity group, it’s more mixed and so you know we still haven’t learnt how to understand the different cultures, the languages and identities but also the core values that underpin who our children are, who our families are that in their way of being that either Samoan or Tongan or being Pacific, the way they interact, the way they engage, the way they respond whether you’re a child or an adult. I don’t think that understanding is fully, there for the education sector to understand for them to engage our learners on their pathway to success. 

I think that our teachers in the current environment that we have are not equipped to come out teaching the diverse learners that are now in the classrooms. You know, back in the day we’d have you know, just a handful of children who are misbehaving but now the issues and the trauma that our children have gone through is so diverse and so intense that there’s very little capacity for support and services that would help our children in schools. So I think in teacher training, our teachers need to come out more equipped in how to operate in challenging situations and communities and you know and I always say to new teachers, you need to know your learners, families and community that are within your school community but also know the wider community and what it has in there. 

Also, I would look at there needs to be more programmes to equip and inform our families about education and within the context of when their child is enrolled in an early childhood service or in the school that there should be some support so that parents are equipped with the right information and relevant information so that they can be a good supportive parent of their child within that school and like I said before around understanding how to op, you know, navigate portals, understanding what types of assessment and what teachers are looking for in those assessments for their children,

You know learning and teaching shouldn’t be a secret we always talk to teachers about you know why don’t you, in parent interviews give a list of questions to the parents that they may ask about their child’s report or about their learning and then let them highlight the questions they wanna ask and then they can add extra questions of what they wanna ask specifically about their child.  I think there should be more money for professional learning and development for our teachers, if we want them to be culturally responsive, well put money into it. You know help our teachers, you can’t put out these documents like Tapasā or you know the Action Plan for Pacific Education if there is no money behind it to help our teachers work out what is the best plan from these documents that would help them in engaging effectively and engaging in a way that is culturally responsive to Pacific learners, their families and the community as well.  

Pacific education and faith leaders 



Rev. Pennie Vaione Togiatama-Otto: So my name is Reverend Pennie Vaione Togiatama-Otto and my current role at the moment is Deputy Principal here at Manurewa High School. I’ve been here now, this is my second year, it’s actually a relieving role and prior to this, I was Acting Deputy Principal at Kelston Girls College. 

If we’re looking at some of the concerns that I’ve seen in my journey, one of them is that there’s a real sense of trying to break the mould, trying to break that status quo for the next generation. We’ve reached a generation now where they’re a bit more clued up than us.  They’re not as robotic, not as challenging in a good way not as more assertive I should say this current generation. Our generation now are clued up, they’re clued up about colonisation, they’re clued up about Pasifika pedagogy, they’re clued up about what it means to be Pacific and so I think for us as Pasifika now, if we’re wanting to make those changes, they have to be done at the top.

They can’t be frontline workers doing Polyfest, doing rugby, doing sports, it can’t come from there anymore cause that hasn’t changed, none of the achievements or none of the impact of the great things happening there have shifted into an economic space, we aren’t becoming more homeowners, we aren’t becoming more business owners because of all the amazing stuff here, nope, we’re just carrying it on to the next generation doing amazing frontline work.

But the shift in Pasifika education has to come from the top and by the top I mean there need to be really good strong Pasifika leaders in senior management and not even at senior management in Principal roles. That’s the only way it’ll come about. It’s really important that you can identify yourself, who you are, yourself as a Principal, as a Deputy Principal, as a leader, whether you are Pacific or non-Pacific, drawing upon that and being open to accepting and allowing others to embrace and enhance their identity is really important.

When students feel connected to themselves in this space, in the schooling space, they feel they can achieve anything, so if you say to kids you can wear your island costume, you know, for the week, there’s a sense of pride, everyone sees it. So you wanna carry that and capture that throughout so having that real commitment to learning about self, committing to learning about others and then really bringing it to life and not making it a token gesture. Language week yay, well no, make it a daily living breathing experience for all of our kids so that it’s normal to speak their language at school, to play indigenous games at school, to have indigenous context in their classes, you know, all of that sort of stuff.

For me I would want to see stronger Pacific leadership, I’d like to see Pacific Principals growing other pasifika, I’d like to see more honesty from non-Pacific Principals and leaders as to their short comings and not try to do what only Pacific people can do. I think that’s really important, so how would you address that, well you would not just have Deputy Principals but you would share co-principalship with Pacific and Māori that’s, that that that there is a really simple way to address it.

Rev Uili Feleterika Nokise: My name is Uili Feleterika Nokise. I am the Minister of the Newtown Pacific Island Presbyterian Church here in Wellington. Wellington for me is hometown. One of the most important values to Samoan people is their spirituality. It’s a kind of a value that binds all of the other values together and the reason why one spirit needs to be in harmony or in balance with things, is to do with the fact that Samoans place great importance on relationships.

Now this relationship amongst things and people with things is the essential part of this spirituality that our people believe in. I find that this is something that seems to be eroding rapidly in the context of living away from our own island home environment. It’s not, I’m not blaming the Western world or different society or what, it’s just the way things are. But if we lose this and let me put this in the context of New Zealand – if our young people lose the sense of being related to everything in life for whatever reasons then this real problem of identity comes up. 

I used to say to my children value what you learn from school.  And just remember that there is more than one classroom and that’s all I said to them and they’ve all sort of turned out to be what they what I never thought they would but that’s what they turn out to be so that’s what they are. And I spend most of the time asking them what are you doing, I have no clue what you doing, so tell me what you doing but yeah I just tell them value what you learn in different classrooms in your life.

Rev. Tevita Finau: Malo e lelei my name is Tevita Finau. I am a Minister of the Methodist Church based in uh Northcote North Shore in Auckland. I come from the village of Nukunuku I am married to my wife, Valeti Finau. We have three adult children and some seven grandchildren.

I'm involved in social service of the Tongan Synod or the Vahefonua Tonga of the Methodist Church of New Zealand.  Education, you know, what for? You know, people are asking and are wondering what we are being educated for. But is it to get a job? Is it to enlighten your mind or to find a living? You know, all of those issues. And so there comes employment, there also comes your career path, whatever and also a good education would help you, you know, survive here in New Zealand and also anywhere you know in the world.

So we are trying to convince parents that in the long run, the students are better prepared to continue in the process to primary school if they do attend early childhood centres and of course they teach the Tongan language there. It’s your identity, it’s who you are and we have experienced a lot of issues with young people, they you know, with their identity. Those who know their identity, they know that they have value. 

I believe Pacific success is being able to know who you are and not only to survive, but have your Tūrangawaewae - you are able to stand you know, on yourself and not being chased or not being controlled by financial institutions and not being controlled, by gangs or other groups. But you are able to stand, and you have a very firm Tūrangawaewae which is your language, your culture and also your religion or your church. And not only that, but you are able to contribute also to your family, contribute to the community and also to the country. 

And I believe that how successful a person is. You still have the link with your folks back at home and not that you suffer for them, but you try and establish yourself, first in New Zealand and then remember your roots. I think to me, that's the Pacific success for me. 

Pacific education and community leaders 


Fa’anānā Efeso Collins: Taloha ni, I’m Efeso Collins. I think one of the biggest challenges we face in Auckland in particular and I know it’s a national issue but I probably know Auckland a little bit better, is poverty and the challenges of poverty on our families.  I think we all come to education with big dreams and aspirations for our children but our families are challenged by the fact that Mum and Dad are having to work multiple jobs, they’re in and out of the house and the kids are often challenged as to whether there’s food either in the pantry of whether you go to a school that provides breakfast or lunch and there are real challenges in poverty.  The stability of housing – we know that fewer than twenty percent of all Pacific people in New Zealand own their own houses so if you’ve got more than eighty percent of people living in rental accommodation or state housing, sometimes there’s going to be a transience issue, so poverty drives a lot of our ability to succeed in the education system and it does cause me quite a bit of anxiety. 

Looking closer to school, I’ve always been a believer that we want teachers where possible who look and sound like our young people.  I think Christian Fa’anene Schmidt, who is a host, young guy, I think he’s from Porirua too, who is a host for MTV said “if you can’t see it you can’t be it”.  And I think those words ring true for many of our young people as they need to see our people in front of them and it’s important that we look at teaching and we see teaching as a real life career that young people can participate in.

I think something I’ve been big on for many years is I believe that we’ve got entrenched institutional racism through a thread of our society.  This isn’t just in education but it impacts on our education. If we’ve got teachers who have low expectations of our kids, if we’ve got children, most of our Pacific children are in low decile schools we know that and that’s not to say that low decile schools aren’t good, it’s just saying that geographically in New Zealand in my view we segregate on the basis of family wealth and the low decile parts of Auckland, in particular, will always be Māori and Pacific, that means that they’re going to go to predominantly low decile schools.

And I think society has particular views and we’ve got to deal to that and so if we can encourage our young people to be analytical, to be critical, of the society that they live in maybe that’s about the time that they start to really engage with the world and how sometimes the world isn’t as ideal as they want it to be, so I hope that gives people some sense of what I think the big issues are for education.

In education, we say that one of the key things a teacher could do that will enhance the educational experience of our young people is good feedback.They need to know is my writing style good, what could I do better here, what are some of the things that I may have missed and some of the things I can enhance. Teachers are honest with their students in the feedback, the challenge we have in schools is whether teachers are given the opportunity to provide the same honest feedback in the school culture.  In my experience it’s been it’s not, there’s always been a need for a mediator because sometimes we’re a little bit challenged by the feedback that they’re getting.

And that’s a personal security issue which is why I think the development of good inclusive leaders means that we starting to deal with our personal insecurities and fears.  We can’t take everything personally and I think leaders who are listening to this at the moment will know that yeah, one of the biggest parts of leadership is not taking everything personally.

When a teacher says why don’t we try this, they’re not attacking you, they’re just offering another view on how something could be enhanced in the schooling system. So professional learning conversations are important but they’re only going to be successful if they’re provided in an environment that is confidential and safe and robust – just because a teacher raises it, it doesn’t mean that their idea is the only idea and we’ve gotta be honest enough to say well this is how I see it, how about we navigate our way through this and when there’s that honesty in the conversation I think we’ll do really well for teachers.

Akarere Henry: Kia orana katoatoa ite aro’amata o tatou atua ko Iesu Mesia. Toku ingoa, ko Akarere Henry, e tamaine au na Tavita ra Merenui Ngāta. Toku koputangata.E ā toku au Tamariki, e varu mokopuna. I’m privileged and honoured to be part of South Waikato Pacific Island Community Services as it’s CEO and have been for over fifteen years now.

It’s interesting that people see the effects of COVID, for us as a community in terms of a number of challenges that we experience anyway because we are quite rural, um, so our level of access to anything is certainly limited.  There was such a disconnect with the national, so there was a national rhetoric that was going on about what is available. It never translated here in the communities, for instance, that every child could have access to some type of digital resource, that wasn’t ever available here and we asked repeatedly actually from a regional approach, simple things like being able to have devices, that never was evidenced within the Waikato area and I know that for quite factually.

So we have another sister organisation over in Hamilton who have the same struggles. So within a house hold of five there may have been one device but there are five children in the home, who then have to allocate time out to then be able to access and of course there was always this assumption that yeah great we can provide you with a device not necessarily with the data that goes with it or if they had a device that they had funding to be able to provide data for it. So a real disconnect in just understanding some of those challenges that our families were experiencing at that time. 

We also found that because of the social connectedness that we had anyway, with that removed to a certain extent it really did put at risk our young people, and there certainly did seem to be a higher incidence of our first couple of weeks into lockdown of contact was centred around our young people. So we know that places like parks and so forth were off limits but that’s where they were congregating because they had no social connectedness at all, if they didn’t have a device, if they didn’t have finance to get data. If the one place that you could get free data in Tokoroa at that time was the library or McDonalds and both were closed, our people had nowhere to go to be able to access. And we saw higher incidents of our young people breaking some of those lockdown rules just to see each other or to be. 

Success in any strand, you know, is about being well and what that means for that young person. If their wellness says that they have been able to pass Level 1 in literacy, then they’re well, and that is  their success so whatever enables a young person, a child, a family to be well, whatever that might look like for them so I can’t define success for everyone, but I allow success to be defined by that family as to what that looks like for them.

Lynette Leota: okay Mālō e lelei my name’s Lynette Leota. I am a New Zealand-born Tongan, my parents migrated here in the seventies and I actually grew up in Auckland. My husband and I who is Samoan, Samoan born, moved down to Blenheim with our five children. We came here because some of our young Pacific kids, they were high risk of, they were on suicide watch at the time, so they asked us to come and run some creative programmes and when I came down here and saw just the need for, I saw that our Pacific young people, they one of them actually asked me, we need someone like you to come here and my heart just and went out to these kids.

And I thought, you know, what we took for granted in Auckland was huge here so you know  at the time we were running a creative retreat and these kids, you know, this was a normal kind of occurrence in Auckland you know, so many programmes for youth and Pacific up in Auckland but here it was like, they acted like this was the most amazing thing that they had ever experienced in their life and I think the realisation of the fact that the regions and places like Blenheim don’t have access to a lot of the things that the Pacific youth in the cities have access to, it really, it really hit me. 

One of the things that have come up a lot in some of the programmes that we’ve run, with Talanoa Ako and just with working with both the students and the parents in the schools is racism. Is probably a real issue and so a lot of our students have encountered racism, not, from within the system but also from fellow pupils and I actually don’t think the schools are equipped to deal with it.

I think one of the ways that the schools can support our young Pacific students when English is their second language is understanding that they’re trying to, especially with NCEA and our older students, they’re trying to learn a new language as well as learn the syllabus.

So there’s a lot of pressure there, they are smart kids, you know the fact that they’ve already got a language they’re fluent in but then they also learning English is amazing and it shows that they are, they have, they are very intelligent, it’s just that we need to, I feel that we need to build more support. Maybe bilingual kind of have that kind of support in there, because they have, they’re strong in their uh their mother tongue and I think that’s an amazing thing, I actually see that as a strength and and an asset to their learning.

Leaupepe Rachel Karalus: Talofa lava,Tena koutou katoa, my name is Rachel Karalus. I presently have the privilege of serving at K’Aute Pasifika. The one that causes me the most concern is the number of children and young people going through the system that experience racism. I think that's a critical thing because how can you learn when you experience behaviours and systemic issues that diminish you as a person.

So that's the, that's probably the one thing that really causes me concern. The other thing is around the lack of cultural responsiveness or cultural humility when it becomes, when it comes to Pacific learners. I think about my own boys at the school that they go to, which is a good school. But a couple of years into my eldest son's education journey, it became apparent to me that his teacher wasn't aware that he was Samoan. And so that told me that he hadn't had the opportunity to have that brought out and celebrated. And then, it sort of got to a point where he was even ashamed, which I think is really, really sad.

Yeah. I would love to see the Pacific workforce grow because I think it's important for Pacific learners to see and learn from people that they can identify with, that they can connect to, that understand their context. And then in turn aspire for that kind of role or that kind of life for themselves. Often here, young people or learners, Pacific people talking about having to walk in two worlds. 

So at home, this is who I am but at school I have I'm another, I have to be another person. I have to be someone else. I think that success would look like Pacific learners being who they are 100% of the time and not having to adapt to some other kind of norm. So that they can feel accepted or part of whatever operating system they're in. I would love to see Pacific learners having the same educational opportunities as people with, you know, sounder financial backgrounds having the same opportunity.

Pacific education and the public sector


Fuetanoa Kose Seinafo:  O lo’u igoa o Fuetanoa Kose Seinafo. I am working here at the Ministry of Education part of the team for Canterbury and Chatham Islands region. I have been at the Ministry for a while now, I was, I’m one of the last back to 2002, so I’ve seen different iterations of Pacific education plans, I’ve seen changes in regards to education policy and practice. And I’ve seen the talanoa that we’ve had with our communities across the country and what I’m loving seeing now is the place of our families in regard to taking responsibility and leadership for the learning of our kids. 

Talanoa Ako has given our communities permission – permission to actually take hold of the education pathway of our kids, ask for different groups to come and support them and take ownership families feel like they own and they are part of that process rather than being outside the gate. The system’s coming to us, system’s coming to Pacific and that has not happened to the extent, to this extent that it has in Talanoa Ako.

One of the issues that we have for our Pasifika communities with our schools and early childhood services is for them to feel safe, to be able to say what they think and not just agree with what the leadership is saying. So the challenge is how do we create that safe space, so that our families will firstly attend and that they feel that they can open up and share the truth.

And I know for our Pacific families the issues that they have they keep to themselves and if they can find one teacher, a Pacific teacher or a non-Pacific teacher, that they feel comfortable with they’ve got an in, you’re opening so much potential for the school to be more embracing of diversity, not just Pacific but for other cultures and you’re unlocking that potential for our kids because they feel like they’re valued.

I’ve seen and heard of wonderful principals and staff, who read the research and they’ve attended the particular workshops but there’s no shift in what happens in their school. So having your own action plan for Pacific, dropping down out of the strategy means that you're part of the solution.

You’re acknowledging that there is a need and that you agree you need to have that focus and that you want to be part of the collective across the country with your little part within your school, early learning service and tertiary provider to make a sweeping change, cause we want it to be an accelerated change for our Pacific students, for our Pacific families so that the future is bright.

Ali Leota: Talofa lava, O lo’u igoa o Ali Leota. I come from the villages of Mulifanua, Apolima-uta, Nofoali’i and Letogo.  I’m a Dunedin-born Samoan but raised in beautiful Porirua, now reside here in sunny Hawkes Bay working for Hawkes Bay DHB as a population health advisor. 

From my experience, biggest issues facing Pacific in education is it is a system that keeps recreating inequities and if the inequity isn’t present in a Pacific space or Pacific classroom it’s prevalent amongst our educators and lecturers and academics.

Prime example is when you look at tertiary education, there’s no where near as many lecturers or educators that are Pacific to meet he needs of our growing population. From my perspective, is the inequities that I keep seeing is, there’s so many Pacific students who succeed in education and want to pursue it into post-graduate study but there’s an immediate barrier that put up in front of them, for them to overcome.

And for many Pacific people that wanna be educators, lecturers or academics, majority will need some sort of post graduate education to be able to pursue their aspirations and dreams. But unfortunately there isn’t a postgraduate student allowance and postgraduate students having to borrow money to survive. And when you’re a graduate as a Pacific student, you are left with the option of either going full-time work to help your family or battling it out for a couple more years to chase your dreams and aspirations. So if you could move that barrier to success then I think we could overcome some of the impacts that Pacific do face in education. 

For me growing up, the definition of Pacific success in education was graduating and getting a job to support your family, but as I’ve gone through my own personal journey of education, I’ve realised Pacific can contribute way more than just to graduate and get a job. We can actually move shake and make things better for not just Pacific people but for all other people as well.

And I know we come from different tangents where we jump off for me and my parents they had me when they were in High School and their trajectory wasn’t as far-reaching as some people would say and for me mine was to you know do better than my parents and the same thing would happen if I have kids one day.

So I was able to continue that journey that my parents weren’t able to complete which was finishing university and for me I was always gonna be trying to challenge myself and that’s how I see success for Pacific education, is leaving this place in a better place than we found it. And I think the younger generation is gonna do a much better job than me and we’re just gonna continue to improve so we can always contribute in meaningful and responsive ways to the fabric of Aotearoa, New Zealand

Saimoni Lealea: Bula Vinaka my name is Sai Lealea, I’m Fijian and it's wonderful to be part of this initiative by the Ministry of Education. Yes, thank you, when it comes to what are the key issues for Pasifika education in New Zealand, I think for me the first thing is understanding the environment in which education as government services is delivered, and as I said earlier, I was last at University over thirty years ago so the environment today is changed drastically and the when I say environment it means not just the education, the economy and society because education has to serve a purpose and you know that to me is quite important.

At a time when education for education's sake has come to be challenged and so in other words, going through the education system is just a process or part of the journey to securing wellbeing for our people.  I think there are a number of ways in which parents can support the learning the education of their children.  We know that the foremost one is of course providing the support the welfare support for the children at home, to ensure there’s a healthy learning environment, so I think as parents we should all take the responsibility seriously and I think most of our parents do.

Now the other thing that I would like to see, is that parents who have the opportunity to undertake some learning as well, adult education. I think that’s great because you know if they are doing that as well, they’ll be in a much better position to understand what their children is getting through. And of course, in New Zealand we’ve got opportunities for adult learning, you know, especially for parents who not able to finish their school for instance, you know, there’s opportunity for adult education in New Zealand and I would certainly encourage parents who are able to do that.

There are real opportunities where schools can partner with a community. Their projects and I think it’s great that some of them are already happening like through the festivals for instance like the cultural stuff but it need not be just in the cultural stuff I think in the careers expo, some of the tax stuff. So not just so, where the communities and schools can partner up, so when children come in there they say, oh let’s go over to that tent where the Ministry of Education is, okay.

But you know, shouldn’t be just Ministry of Education, when people go there they should see community people in there as well, alright. So they can see that there is a visible, a real partnership, not just a you know kind of writing and stuff like that, it has to be visible so when people see, seeing is believing, so for our people and certainly for our children and they need to see that kind of real partnership happening with schools.

And I think that is quite important to undertake activities like that. And I know, I give credit to the education system too - the programmes that’s happening in the communities, Talanoa Ako is one for instance and that’s wonderful. It needs to be properly supported and resourced because the worst thing is that when you, this has happened a number of times, when you take the community along and then they get dumped because you raise their expectation and our community have long memories, you know, and it doesn’t take that much to discourage them, you know. 'Cause you know, we are very discerning people as well because at the end of the day we are relationship people, you know, everything is about relationship and schools and you know, need to understand know for us, it’s all about people in the end, it’s about relationships. It’s not just the Ministry is an institution. 

Pacific student voice



Ofa Puleiku: Mālō e lelei, my name is Ofa Puleiku and I am a Tongan born Christchurch bred. I am currently a student at the University of Canterbury. This is my second year and I am studying a Bachelor of Commerce in the major of human resources and a minor of sociology.

There are a lot of issues the young Pasifika people face but, in my opinion, the biggest one is mental health. I previously have struggled with mental health throughout my whole life really, me and my parents, I can’t say we’ve had the perfect relationship. And it all comes down to kind of communication between us and sometimes it’s a bit hard within the education system in terms of, it’s hard to kind of, to tell your parents about, about school, about what you failed, about, about even your achievements, sometimes it’s a bit hard cause sometimes you don’t know if its good enough. And an issue that I faced was trying to, to find someone within the education system that could explain it better than I could. 

When I went to Burnside High School there was only a handful of brown students, of Pasifika students. In a school of two thousand four hundred, there was seventy, eighty odd pasifika students and it was hard to relate to one another because we just never, we never were brought together by a teacher or counsellor if you will. Actually, I faced during COVID was teachers, actually lecturers not understanding that me staying home it’s a lot because of my family duties such as feaus or chores, even supporting our family. So, I don’t think a lot of teachers understand our Pasifika values, I think that’s another issue. 

So advice I would give to our Pasifika parents out there, the first one would definitely be kind of talk to your kids. It’s hard, I know. I’ve experienced it but I understand coming from a Pasifika student myself and just a Pasifika young person, it’s hard to talk to your parents. 

So advice I would have for teachers within our education system would, the first one for me would just be going out of your way to kind of learn about our Pasifika values, so such as respect, so in Tonga that’s faka’apa’apa or in Samoa that’s fa’aaloalo. So yeah, so there’s a lot of Pasifika values also leadership that I think that if teachers kind of looked a bit more into, they would kinda understand how we think and where we come from.

Lesina Pereira: Talofa lava my name is Lesina Pereira I’m 18 years old and I just finished my 5 years at Wellington Girls College and this year I’m starting at Vic Uni and I’m doing political science as my major and Pacific studies as my minor. 

I think for most Pacific students, the education system, the material that the schools give out, it isn’t always relatable to Pacific students so I think it's quite hard sometimes for them to engage in the topics or feel like they have a reason to be studying that information or that topic. So I think that without relatable material, education for Pacific students can sometimes be quite hard to self-motivate.

Overall, my education from the start of Primary School to the end of College was quite unrelatable in terms of pacific material. I did go to a predominantly palagi Primary School and College so I guess it’s hard to, for teachers to want to feel as though they should teach Pacific material to a school that has less than 5% Pacific students. But I still think that there were definitely opportunities missed there because I think Pacific knowledge can be taught to all ethnicities in New Zealand. Because I definitely think that a lot of the Pacific history in NZ is really relevant to our society today.

Te Ropu a Kiwa which is the committee for Pacific and Māori and Poly Club were basically the only things that the school had going for Pacific students. And I think that that’s a good start, but I think there’s definitely ways you can implement Pacific culture into other activities such as we have different weeks at our school – heritage, sport, arts and I think that all the committees can incorporate Pacific knowledge or activities into those weeks in order to help promote Pacific culture. I think there’s heaps of Pacific music, art, history, Pacific sports that the school could definitely learn about in a fun way.

I just think that the school could definitely do better at helping to implement Pacific anything into the school and I think that it definitely misses opportunities in that way and it does and that goes for all the different minorities at the school. I think it’s so surprising that we don’t have like an international committee or anything. We’ve got heaps but we don’t have an international committee and I definitely think that can be a problem for other minority students that don’t feel like they have a place to look forward or to look up to.  So I definitely think that the school could do better in those aspects.

Peniamina Junior Misa: Talofa lava my name is Peniamina Junior Misa, I am the son of Safole Misa from Siufaga Falelatai, and my mother Aliata Misa from Pata Falelatai. The difficult things about going to school is that teachers mostly talk to me and my friends about what we’re gonna do in the next rugby game coming up. Talk about, they talk about all our strategies, what’s gonna happen next in the centre, if there’s gonna be a fight in the centre, our teachers, some teachers, they just don’t understand. They just think that we Pacific islanders are built to just, yeah, play sports and become an All Black one day.

In school, things that keep me, actually just going back to school every day make me, the things that made me want to go to school, was actually my teachers too. My teacher, who is Rose, as well, come to college especially, Rose was all about Pasifika and being who you’re, who you’re meant to be and actually, who you want to be. 

For our teachers, first always try your best to see the situation with your students, not only in school but also in their homes. Don’t be afraid to ask if everything’s alright, and because kids won’t, they won’t ask, they don’t ask for help. Yeah.