This March, I attended the Christchurch POLYFEST 2015 held at the Westminster Park — the first time the event has been held outdoors. The Polyfest was an opportunity for the Pasifika community to celebrate the diverse cultures of the 19 Christchurch secondary schools in a lively and colourful event.
I also found it to be an excellent illustration of the Pasifika Education Plan (PEP) in action. The PEP encourages:
“Working together ensures that activities that are required to lift achievement also responds to the identities, language and culture of the different Pasifika groups.”
(Pasifika Education Plan 2013-2017, p. 1, Ministry of Education).
Here’s what impressed me about this event.
What an exciting opportunity for the young men and women who will be the future leaders of our Pasifika community! They stood tall and showed off their unique Pasifika culture, their talents, and, above all, the enjoyment of being ‘Pasifika’. ‘Well done’ to them.
There were the usual magnificent displays of cultural dancing. But, this event was not all about the demonstration of ‘cultural dancing’. For example, there was the ‘Teta-Sopoaga’ Speech competition. This competition provides opportunities for Pasifika students from junior to senior levels in secondary schools to participate. Students are given the opportunity to deliver their speeches in either English or in their heritage language.
Importantly, even pre-schoolers were included when the early years children were brought up on stage to answer simple questions and were rewarded for their participation. This involvement shows the significance of early learning as a fundamental part of preparing our Pasifika learners for educational success.
The community was out in full force. Parents set up stalls and raised funds to assist their respective schools. School principals, teachers, board members, grandparents and families with their young children were there to support their older siblings, nephews, nieces and children.
Education partner organisations and agencies were there too. This involvement provided unique pathways for prominent groups such as Mana Rapuara Aotearoa (CareersNZ) to attend and outline their mechanisms for support of career aspirations for our Pasifika students. The Pacific Youth Leadership and Transformation (PYLAT) Council also participated in their role as a lead voice for Pacific Youth, having become a charitable trust and organised themselves around topical youth issues.
Such events provide Pasifika children with the opportunities to see, hear, and recognise their own cultures, languages, and identities that reflect in the community. Working together like this goes a long way to lifting achievement among Pasifika children; it showcases what is essentially the Pasifika way.
If you are interested to investigate more about Pasifika Education and the Ministry of Education’s initiative in supporting Pasifika success check out the Pasifika Education Plan.