Bishop Viard College students launch Mālamalama: Light and Understanding

Issue: Volume 103, Number 8

Posted: 27 June 2024
Reference #: 1HAh27

Students from Bishop Viard College in Porirua have taken a bold step in fostering inclusivity and understanding with the launch of a groundbreaking professional development resource called Mālamalama: Light and Understanding.

Charity and Fa’amavaega are Year 13 students at Bishop Viard College.

Charity and Fa’amavaega are Year 13 students at Bishop Viard College.

Mālamalama is a term from the Samoan language meaning ‘light’ and ‘understanding’. It aptly captures the essence of this student-led project.

Mālamalama: Light and Understanding is an innovative resource comprised of seven informational videos. It is a testament to the power of storytelling and the importance of amplifying diverse voices within the school community.

The videos, written and produced by students over the course of a year, draw on the lived experiences of past and present students, and provide a deeply personal and poignant exploration of significant social issues. The resource is proudly supported by the Ministry of Education’s Pacific Education Innovation Fund.

Fa’amavaega and Charity are Year 13 students at Bishop Viard College and two of the inspiring students at the helm of this project, which they anticipate will address some important issues for Pacific students in education.

“Most of us Pacific students tend not to talk or ask questions in class because of the fear of getting judged. So we came up with the idea to find a solution on how we can push ourselves as Pacific students to be better in the classroom,” says Fa’amavaega.

Each video in the Mālamalama series delves into topics that are both challenging and crucial for today’s society. Among these are discussions on racism, which address the pervasive and insidious nature of discrimination, and Pacific migration stories, which illuminate the rich and complex histories of Pacific communities in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Gina Lefaoseu, deputy principal at Bishop Viard and teacher overseeing the project, says that Mālamalama will spark some vital conversations between students and teachers.

“Whatever perspective they may come from, the teachers and students that see it will be having a conversation.”

Authentic student voice

One of the key strengths of Mālamalama is its authenticity. The students’ voices and stories are presented with raw honesty, allowing viewers to connect with their experiences on a profound level.

“As a Pacific student, I struggle sometimes with learning in class. In collecting student perspectives from past and present students through our survey, I found that most students are in the same boat as me, so I wanted to do something to help fix that,” explains Fa’amavaega.

The results of the student survey highlighted a common thread with a lack in communication with their teachers and a lack of confidence with the students. This connection is vital in fostering empathy and understanding, which can be crucial for combating prejudice and building a more inclusive community.

The survey results became the starting point for the Mālamalama: Light and Understanding project and led to the production of the videos.

“Some things in this resource will be quite confronting for staff, so I’ll just say this: embrace it. This is the most important thing – our students,” says Gina.

The video on racism features candid conversations about the personal impacts of racial bias and discrimination. Students share or act out their encounters with racism, both overt and subtle, and reflect on how these experiences have shaped their identities and perspectives. This video educates viewers about the realities of racism and challenges them to confront their own biases, by taking action against racial injustice.

The Pacific migration stories video offers a rich tapestry of narratives from a student and her grandfather, who migrated to Aotearoa New Zealand from Tokelau. These stories provide insight into the challenges and triumphs of migrating to a new country, preserving cultural heritage, and navigating the complexities of identity in a multicultural society.

“We showed the migration story of a student’s grandfather. The value of this story for our Pacific students is to inspire them to embrace our elderly and go back to that old knowledge and how we came to be [in Aotearoa New Zealand].

“Some of the students didn’t really know how they got here, so this video encourages students to talk with their grandparents, to try to connect with them and to listen to the sacrifices they made for all of us to get here,” says Charity.

The video highlights the resilience and strength of Pacific communities and underscores the importance of recognising and valuing diverse cultural backgrounds.

Some of the Mālamalama team with deputy principal Gina Lefaoseu (second from left) and principal Chris Theobald (far right).

Some of the Mālamalama team with deputy principal Gina Lefaoseu (second from left) and principal Chris Theobald (far right).

Embracing our differences

Beyond these topics, Mālamalama also addresses issues such as cultural identity, belonging, and the power of education. Each video serves as a valuable educational tool, not only for students and staff at Bishop Viard College, but for the wider community as well.

“Showing our students these types of videos, we hope they can take something from it and put it into their path of where they’re going,” says Fa’amavaega.

The resource is designed to be used in professional development courses, sparking conversations and inspiring action towards a more equitable and understanding society.

“Moving here from Samoa three years ago was difficult and I thought I had to be like my friends to fit in. Thankfully over time I realised that difference doesn’t mean you’re bad, it just means you’re unique and you don’t have to be someone else,” says Charity.

The creation of Mālamalama: Light and Understanding is a remarkable achievement for the students of Bishop Viard College.

It exemplifies the school’s commitment to nurturing socially aware and engaged young people who are equipped to make a positive impact in the world. The project also reflects the power of student voice and the importance of creating platforms for young people to share their stories and perspectives.

“We just hope this resource persuades Pacific students to be more confident in who they are, use their background as a strength to push them and guide them along their journey,” says Fa’amavaega.

The Mālamalama team present a sneak peak of the resource at a resource launch.

The Mālamalama team present a sneak peak of the resource at a resource launch.

Sustaining Mālamalama

In a time when issues of racism, migration, and cultural identity are at the forefront of social discourse, Mālamalama: Light and Understanding provides a beacon of hope and a call to action.

It reminds us that understanding, and empathy are the foundations of a harmonious society and that through listening and learning from each other, we can create a brighter, more inclusive future for all.

Moving forward, a plan to develop this resource beyond this year is already in motion. Gina says that once her students are confident in leading workshops on Mālamalama, they will pass on their knowledge to the next cohort of students, who will then do the same and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

“We want to tell our Pacific students: you don’t have to act a certain way to fit into society. You can be you, just embrace your differences and use that as a strength to guide you through life,” concludes Charity.

For more information on Mālamalama: Light and Understanding workshops, check out @malamalama_bvc on Instagram.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 11:28 am, 27 June 2024

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