The Minister for Pacific Peoples has called Tauranga “a special place” and heaped praise on the next generation of Pasifika role models in the city.
Minister Aupito William Sio visited Tauranga Boys’ College recently, alongside Minister of Internal Affairs Jan Tinetti, and is clearly impressed by what he has seen.
Sio says he told the boys at the college they belong to the ‘six-B’s generation.
“I said you are a new generation that are proudly brown, beautiful, brainy, bi-lingual, bi-cultural and bold,” he says.
“A lot of those kids have multi-ethnic heritage. In many ways, their confidence and their youthfulness shows that they have a huge role to play as the future workforce and future business community.”
Sio explains that appropriate education for young students of Pacific background is crucial, highlighting the youthful nature of the demographic.
“The Pasifika population is one of the fastest growing in New Zealand and one of the youngest,” he says. “The median age for Pasifika is around 23, whilst the rest of the population is around 32 or 34.”
In order to fully engage with the Pasifika cohort, Minister Sio outlines his belief that language, culture and identity were fundamental principles to maximising potential in the demographic.
“The international evidence shows that is the case,” he says.
“If you look to Europe, some countries have policies where students have the right to be taught in the language of their choosing.
“You look at Europe and the way they value languages. They are some of the wealthiest countries. In Asia, they recognise bilingualism and multilingualism as a competitive edge in the economy. So for us, this is so fundamental.”
The Minister says he will now be hoping to use part of the money toward the Pacific package of the 2021 Budget towards supporting Pacific bilingual language immersion units.
“We will now be asking the Ministry of Education to begin the consultation for establishing a policy to support that throughout the whole country.
“I am asking some of these young people and the schools and the communities to participate and cement that policy, so that we make sure that we get things right.”
Minister Tinetti speaks from experience on the topic. She is a former Principal at Merivale School, before entering politics in 2017.
She admits that back in 2006, when she first joined the school, there was little being offered for young people who identified with Pacific backgrounds.
In the 15 years since she has seen a change.
“When I see what is happening now, it is so heartening,” she says.
Tinetti highlights how seeing the progress of some of her former Merivale pupils reinforces her view that steps are being made in the right direction.
“What really struck me was the boys there that are from Pacific Island background and the number of boys and young men there who were my ex-Merivale students. That was really heartening.
“To see them really proud in who they are and proud of their achievements, but also to see that for some of them, they had remained at school and were achieving well at school.
“That tells me that the schooling system is doing a really good job with them, and Tauranga Boys’ in particular.”
The culture of teaching at Tauranga Boys’ College received praise from Sio, who was happy to see teachers and the principal “championing” that level of education.
He believes it is helping form a bright future for those students at the college and, he hopes, all of New Zealand.
“It is not just two languages, it is multiple languages. They are not only learning Samoan, but Fijian and Tongan,” he says.
“They are also showing a glimpse of what the shape of New Zealand looks like in the years ahead. The good thing is they do not only seem to be confident in their own cultural heritage, but they are also mixing and mingling with Maori and Pakeha students and others.
“That is a beautiful thing because they are all quite comfortable with it.”