‘Pacific Language Week’, rolling out templates and tokenism extraordinaire
Adapted from Niue Star
Last week, Samoa language week kick-started the Pacific language week series. These annual events are supposed to highlight the importance of seven Pacific languages in New Zealand.
Minister for Pacific Peoples, Peseta Sam Lotu I’iga said the series celebrates “our strong links to the Pacific and the rich contribution we make to New Zealand’s culture.
“I believe New Zealand’s future success will be significantly powered by Pacific people. As a Pacific migrant myself I understand how vitally important it is to keep our links to our cultural heritage while embracing our lives in our adopted home country.
“As the Pacific People’s Minister I am committed to creating opportunities to share and promote Pacific cultures,” Peseta Sam said.
But there is a distinct difference between what the minister said and his government’s actions regarding Pacific languages.
In 2013, I wrote, ‘It’s Pacific Language Week – Who Cares?’ And two years later, as Samoa language week 2015 winds down today, I find the questions posed in the 2013 article still remain unanswered, or is it too low priority to deserve any action?
No disrespect to Peseta, le aiga Sa Peseta, I’iga le ma’opu, le Matua o Lemalu, Ugapo ma Sauia, le Pule a Sealiimalietoa aemaise Salemuliaga; that despite the nice words, colourful activities, chop suey and taro, his government since coming into power in 2008, continue to sidestep and distance themselves from giving the help Pacific languages desperately need to stave off extinction.
Three key areas where the National government has radiated out negative global effects to Pacific language and education:
- Kept a ‘pause’ on publishing the Tupu and Folauga series as a resource since 2009;
- deleted ‘Pasifika’ digital learning resources formally from the 21st Learning Environment and Digital Literacy Inquiry 2012 report that is driving the Network4Learning portal designed specifically for New Zealand schools; and
- sidelined the Pacific Education Plan by not linking it to the Network4Learning infrastructure and build; and continue to hamstring human resources capability at the Pacific Education Unit so there are minimal field consultation between the Unit and Pacific teachers.
At the same time Pacific education and language preservation is being sidelined by this government, they have turned around and propped up non-Pacific education providers in a move that contradicts their supposed investment into Pacific not-for-profit community education providers.
Where’s proof of this blatant rebuff of Pacific island communities? We found two in our Pacific Guardians files.
First up, government gave money to corporate Early Childhood provider KidiCorp so they could come into low decile communities and compete with not-for-profit community early childhood centres funded by the government. This is happening in the Pacific dense Porirua East community in Wellington; and Otara community in South Auckland. In 2015, some of these community operations are struggling under this corporate welfare distortion to the market.
The second proof confirms the fact this government’s loyalty lie elsewhere when in August 2014, Education Minister Hekia Parata announced a $10million investment to support Asian languages with Chinese language, Mandarin, the top priority. Surely there is still some form of loyalty based on the special Samoa/New Zealand ‘Treaty of Friendship’ signed in August 1962? By the way, this is the only such agreement New Zealand has with any other country.
As New Zealanders wind down from a diet of Samoan language and culinary delight, was this a week that proved Hon Peseta Lotu I’iga’s statement it was a celebration of “our strong links to the Pacific and the rich contribution we make to New Zealand’s culture.” Or was it proof that Pacific ‘Language Weeks’ are purely just tokenism?
It certainly looks like tokenism when one considers that the seven events this year will be based on the same template that was rolled out last year, the year before that, and very possibly, the same one recycled for 2016.
People may say this is an overly critical and one-sided opinion – fair enough. But we at Pacific Guardians point to the above articles as evidence we’re pretty much on the money. Why? It is strengthened by the information that staff at the Ministry of Education itself were running around like headless chickens at the end of last week trying to put Samoan language celebration programs together.
Apparently, staff working in some key sections that deal directly with Pacific education had “forgotten” that Samoa language week was already upon them. Luckily, the material and programs from 2014 were there, which were easily modified and used for 2015.
Well, that’s what templates are for aren’t they, bugger which language was it again…was it Samoan or Tongan? No it was Tokelauan, oh hang on, that’s the seventh one during October…I think. No matter, does anyone care?