Prompted by my colleague Manu Faaea-Semeatu, I put together the following list that should help educators to better understand Pasifika.
1. What “Pasifika” actually means
Pasifika is a term that is unique to Aotearoa and is a term coined by government agencies to describe migrants from the Pacific region and their descendants, who now call Aotearoa home.
2. Pasifika peoples are not a homogenous nation
Pasifika in Aotearoa refers to people who are descendants of the Polynesian nations of the Cook Islands, Tonga, Niue, Samoa, Tuvalu, Tokelau. This means we don’t all speak the same language.
3. Fiji is not considered part of Pasifika (Polynesia)
Fiji belongs to a group of nations referred to as Melanesians. Other nations in this group include Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia (part of France), West Papua, Indonesia and Papua. However we can still include them in the definition of Pasifika within the context of Aotearoa.
4. Not all people from Pasifika cultures can speak their heritage languages
Pasifika peoples in Aotearoa, especially if they are born here, may not necessarily have learned to speak their heritage languages. Usually this is because they have not had access to opportunities to learn their heritage language either in the home or at school. However, some Pasifika peoples may speak their heritage languages in church communities or in their homes if they have strong speakers to help teach them.
5. Not all Pasifika peoples come from one Pasifika nation
Intermarriage is, or interracial relationships are, quite common amongst Pasifika peoples or with Pasifika peoples and other cultures. So, it is not unusual to have students in classrooms who, for example, may be both Samoan and Tongan, or Māori and Cook Island. This means that students in schools will benefit from teachers getting to know the subtle differences and nuances of the cultures of their learners.
6. Pasifika peoples like to congregate in group settings
Pasifika peoples like to work in groups to collaborate better with one another, which is traditionally part of their village life before migrating to Aotearoa. Pasifika learners dislike being singled out as this shatters their confidence and potentially harms their self-esteem.
7. Pronunciation of names
If you learn how to correctly pronounce names of Pasifika peoples, this will earn you much respect. Even using phonetics to get the right sounds will take you a long way when working with Pasifika peoples. By making the effort to ensure you use correct pronunciation, it shows that you respect Pasifika peoples and their cultures.
8. Establishing positive relationships with Pasifika peoples
Communication is the key and will result in a better partnership and outcomes between school and the home. To establish positive relationships, you must work with families to improve parents’ participation and contribution, even if you encounter some reluctance on the part of families to engage.
9. Pasifika voice
It is important to respect Pasifika peoples’ voice regardless of their language barriers. For example, even though their tone of voice when speaking their heritage language, or in English, may sound argumentative, they should be empowered to be heard and valued.
10. Improve communication with Pasifika communities
Use accessible language in communications to homes and the workplace, and avoid professional jargon that might work to isolate or disempower Pasifika peoples.
- Pasifika Education Plan 2013-2017
- Pasifika Education Community
- LEAP: Language Enhancing the Achievement of Pasifika
- Coconet TV