Pacific students stand strong with Tu’u Mālohi

Issue: Volume 101, Number 15

Posted: 23 November 2022
Reference #: 1HAYCT

Tu’u Mālohi is a stand-alone programme developed and piloted to strengthen wellbeing support for Pacific learners in Years 9–13, their parents, families, communities, and schools.

Students engage and learn through Talanoa.

Students engage and learn through Talanoa.

Tu’u Mālohi is built on the learnings from the PowerUp to Talanoa Ako longitudinal evaluations from 2016 to 2019 and a pilot programme, ‘O A’u Lea’ from 2019/2020.

It was co-designed by a Talanoa group of Pacific experts from the health, justice, youth work, faith, community, social services and education fields.

“Pacific Champions from these various sectors like Professor Tagaloatele Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop, Dr Lesieli Tongati’o, Dr Fuimaono Pulotu-Endemann, Dr Melani Anae, Lealamanu’a Caroline Mareko, Saimoni Lealea, Dr Cherie Chu-Fuluifaga, Dr Aiono Manu Fa’aea, Rob Luisi and Fati Tagoa’i to name a few, converged and spent some time looking at what the Ministry had initially pulled together from the pilot programme participant feedback and evaluations,” says Daisy Lavea-Timo, director of Cross-Polynate.

“We were then unleashed to design, deconstruct and re-construct the programme through a facilitated Talanoa.”

The programme was refined and renamed Tu’u Mālohi (stand strong) and tendered through GETS for Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and emerging Pacific population locations. For 2022, the following 10 areas were selected: Auckland (four), Palmerston North (one), Wellington (two), Blenheim (one) and Christchurch (two).

The Tu’u Mālohi programme follows an ‘As and By Pacific’ delivery approach that seeks to strengthen Pacific wellbeing through four key pou:

  • Pou 1: Identity – migration narratives, where we come from, Pacific in the diaspora
  • Pou 2: Racism – identifying awareness and strategies to combat
  • Pou 3: Pacific values as a source of resilience – who we are
  • Pou 4: Careers pathway and goal setting – the ability to dream.

Cross-Polynate ran both the Christchurch Tu’u Mālohi programmes, one at Christchurch Girls’ High School (CGHS) in combination with Christchurch Boys’ High School and the other at Avonside Girls’ High School (AGHS).

The project team consisted of in-school leads Maria Lemalie (CGHS) and Lesieli Peseta (AGHS), PLD lead Angie Malae (University of Canterbury), social worker Jeremy Faumuinā and support teachers Edward Finch, Angelene Sisifa and Seta Timo. Pivotal to implementation was the partnership endorsement and support of principals Christine O’Neill (CGHS) and Catherine Law (AGHS).

Daisy says the programme provides many benefits, particularly through partnership between learners, parents, and the schools.

“There are 11 sessions in the programme – for some we’re working only with rangatahi, and then in some, parents had to be there, and in other sessions we provide professional learning development with staff as informed by the voices of the parents and the students. So, there’s that wonderful weaving.”

A Tu’u Mālohi participant facilitates the Q&A session with Polynesian Panthers Dr Melani Anae and Rev Alec Toleafoa.

A Tu’u Mālohi participant facilitates the Q&A session with Polynesian Panthers Dr Melani Anae and Rev Alec Toleafoa.

Elevating voices

Students enjoyed learning about migration narratives through Talanoa, and created and shared their own stories through visual and performing arts.

Reflection videos from the students show they appreciated the strengths-based learning about their Indigenous Pacific knowledge, values and cultural frameworks which affirmed their identities and way of being.

Daisy says the pou around ‘Identity’ and ‘Pacific values as a source of resilience’ are enhanced by the partnership method of the programme. Learners are at first engaged to discover their identity, then parents are brought along the journey.

“In the professional learning development part, there are two sessions where the parents’ voices and the children’s voices are shared with staff around their experiences in school. So that learning and sharing makes it a really unique programme.”

The programme is intended to complement existing work within schools on an ongoing basis rather than being a temporary ‘add on’.

This is partly achieved through the sessions with staff, who have found the opportunity to hear student and parent voices to be enlightening.

“I think it was quite eye opening for them and it was great for them to have a safe space to unpack our Pacific students’ responses to the question, ‘Do we see ourselves reflected in the curriculum, classroom and around the school?’”

The PLD sessions brought the voices of Pacific students and parents to the fore of those teaching and learning conversations.

Students Talanoa about their Pacific Identity and Values.

Students Talanoa about their Pacific Identity and Values.

Teachers were able to hear some real-time lived experiences of the participants and were invited and supported to engage in a critical reflection of their practice and design of their learning spaces and curriculum material.

Combating racism

Combating racism is a core element of the Action Plan for Pacific Education 2020-2030.

Discussions surrounding racism can be tough but necessary conversations, according to Daisy. She says that the approach used in the programme helps to develop these conversations.

“We talk about naming, navigating and negotiating. Those are key terms that were put in this programme. So, it was wonderful to be able to hold space with our Pacific learners to maybe name what they might have felt, then ask, ‘How do we negotiate that? How do we navigate that going forward?’”

Daisy gives an example of how this can look in practice.

“In one of our sessions, we had scenarios printed out around defining some terms like ‘microaggressions’, ‘gaslighting’ and ‘non-homogeneity’. The teachers explained the term and we used lived experience stories from research to illustrate them. Some students courageously shared some of their own personal experiences. We then facilitated a Talanoa around, ‘How could we navigate that if it happens to us?’

“So just simple things they can have in their toolkit, such as if someone has a dig at you, you can say something like, ‘Hold on, what do you mean by that?’ You can put the onus back on the other person to explain themselves. Keeping communication lines open and frequent with teachers is important too.

“Our programme was also fortunate to host the revolutionary Polynesian Panthers Dr Melanie Anae and Rev Alex Toleafoa at both schools – that was a real highlight for everyone.”

Practical tools for students

The programme incorporates ideals but also provides practical tools for the students. The Cross-Polynate team were able to showcase Pacific excellence within the staff, parents, community and beyond through workshops and talks with Pacific professionals and renowned Pacific creatives.

The sessions guide students through practical tools and skills to increase self worth.

The sessions guide students through practical tools and skills to increase self worth.

The goal setting session with ākonga and their parents encouraged the students to ‘dream big’ and invited parents and teachers as partners, to examine the support systems and networks needed to enable the Pacific ākonga to succeed.

“We can all have some goals, but if we don’t have those systems to actually support us and sustain it, they’re just a lofty goal.”

Tu’u Mālohi has been instrumental in carving out a culturally safe and positive space to learn, to have courageous conversations, to dream big, and perhaps even more pertinent from these student voices, is the ability for Pacific learners and their families to remember and be affirmed in their Pacific identities and brilliance.

“This is important, all of this revelation – especially for guys, identity and going through depression, it stems to how firm your identity is and how much you know yourself,” says one student.

“Understanding our identity, we realised our appearances are beautiful, we have nice demeanours, we are funny, and that all comes from religion, our upbringings, our desire to love and to serve, going through all these Tu’u Malohi sessions, made me appreciate, just how cool our Pacific people are,” says another.

There will be more information about the next round of the Tu’u Mālohi programme after the pilot.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 11:43 am, 23 November 2022

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