What are the educational experiences like for our Pasifika learners? This was a question we were grappling with at our latest Pasifika fono.
- What are the assumptions we have about our Pasifika students and why do we have those assumptions?
- How can we then illustrate the impact some of those assumptions can have on our students?
- Have attitudes changed?
- Or, do we as educators working in the Pasifika education sector need to speak more clearly or if needed, more loudly?
It is the 1990s, I am studying for an Equity exam at Auckland University. Like a lot of students from South Auckland, I'm on a budget, and I look like I’m on a budget. After taking a break from studying, I’m about to walk back into the library when a man bursts out yelling ‘there’s that suspicious-looking Polynesian kid, grab him’. I turn around to see who he is yelling at. It turns out, it's me. Just before they are about to pounce on me, one of the security guards recognises me, “Um, that guy is a student here”. Annoyed? Yes. Surprised. No. These experiences were fairly common. What was worse was when it happened in front of a crowd of palagi, and all eyes were on you, the poor kid from South Auckland. Sometimes, when you’re a minority, or you represent a number of minority groups, you learn to hide among the crowd; to find the little cracks and corners to squeeze yourself into, to avoid drawing attention to your differences. Humiliation. Frustration. Anger.
That was over 20 years ago.
Have things changed?