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Save your languages, Parata tells islanders

Jun 24th, 2012 | By | Category: Diversity, Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

PACIFIC Islanders should keep using their languages at home, and encourage their children to become teachers, says Hekia Parata.

About 40 people gathered at a Pacific community meeting on Thursday in Newtown to listen and meet the Minister of Education and Minister of Pacific Island Affairs.

Pacific languages were a hot topic, but Ms Parata said more government funding was not the answer.

The minister says she is often asked if the government will support Pasifika languages in education.

“My answer is yes, we do support them by funding language plans and early childhood services in Pasifika languages.

“But in primary and secondary schools we don’t have enough Pasifika teachers.”

“The best way for languages to survive is for you to speak them at the shops, at home, on the sports field.”

While Ms Parata was not challenged publically during the meeting, community members say there should be more government support for languages like Niuean, Cook Islands Māori and Tokelauan, which are classified as endangered by UNESCO.

“Considering that these Pasifika languages are endangered and these countries are part of the Queen’s realm of New Zealand, Ms Parata is out of touch with what the community needs,” says Fetu Tamapeau, a member of the Wellington City Council Pacific advisory group.

Ms Parata says the community is responsible for encouraging prospective students to train in teaching Pasifika languages.

“Until we have more Pasifika people training to be teachers and keeping the languages alive, the ability to actually teach them in our education system is severely unlikely.”

In New Zealand, 2.8% of registered teachers are of Pacific Island descent, according to latest data from the Ministry of Education.

The Diploma in Early Childhood Education should be able to be delivered in the Samoan language, says Fereni Ete, founder of Aoga Amata Early Childhood Education Teacher Training – a bilingual teaching programme that reflects Samoan and Pasifika values.

“I’ve been fighting with the NZQA for a long time to change this, we train our people in both English and Samoan but I believe they should be educated in their first language. But Samoan is not an official language of NZ so we can’t.”

Ms Parata says she supports the acquisition of qualifications of Pasifika people using their first language and that she would look into the issue but warns it may take a long time to implement.

The meeting ended with an informal meal and more discussion between Ms Parata and community members.

Parliament’s Education and Science Committee recently launched an inquiry into current support for Pacific languages in early childhood education and are taking public submissions.

Submissions close on Monday, June 25.

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