‘Powerful’ Pacific programme gathers momentum

Issue: Volume 98, Number 5

Posted: 20 March 2019
Reference #: 1H9sRS

The Ōamaru Pacific community has rallied together to give its students the best possible futures. Two participants share their experiences of the Ōamaru PowerUP Plus PowerStation.

What is Pasifika PowerUP Plus?

The Pasifika PowerUP Plus programme helps Pacific parents and adult family members navigate the education system and better support and advocate for their children’s academic achievement.

PowerUP sessions run over a number of weeks, and deliver targeted education workshops to Pacific parents and their families. Each week there is a hot meal before the group breaks into parents, early learning students, primary and intermediate and secondary student workshops.

Parents attend workshops about NCEA, education pathways and how to read reports. They can meet other parents with similar experiences and concerns, they can ask teachers questions, and build their confidence in the education setting.

Students can access academic support and mentoring, and attend workshops about topics like study skills, time management, revision skills, subject choice, health and wellbeing, how to deal with bullying, and financial literacy.

Two new Pacific PowerUP models are being tested this year – PowerUP FlexiPlus and PowerUP Au Lotu (church). These will give local Pacific providers more flexibility to respond to their community’s needs, including deciding what they deliver and when, the duration of the programme (8–15 weeks), Reading Together® and a local curriculum aspect enabling providers to target the curriculum to Pacific cultures.

Find out more about Pacific PowerUP(external link), and your nearest PowerUP PowerStation. 

 Oamaru mother of two and New Zealand-born Samoan Hana Halalele was part of the team who set up a new Pasifika PowerUP Plus PowerStation for their local community – the newest of 20 in the country.

Hana says it all started with local group Ōamaru Pacific Island Network organising a workshop for Pacific parents to discuss their children’s education. The group, who called themselves Talanga ‘a Waitaki, felt that they needed better support so they could be stronger champions for their children at school.

From there the group worked with the Ministry of Education and held consultations with their community to launch their own PowerUP in July 2018.

Volunteer parents in their steering group Talanga ‘a Waitaki played an important role in establishing, and now running, the PowerUP, and bringing different Pacific values and languages to the team.

“There are just over 10 steering team members. It’s a mixture of Tongan, Tuvaluan, Tokelauan and Samoan heritage and everyone has their own various networks within the wider community. Each person has different schools and different pastoral roles within our PowerUP,” says Hana.

“Our model [PowerUP] works well for us because it is community-focused and community-driven.

“It’s about going back to our Pacific values of alofa, love, respect, and service in everything that we do and everything that we stand for.”

Their first station had 27 registrations and to date they have 56 families registered (around 300 people), including students from all of their local schools.

Hana says to start a PowerUP they put together a working group of volunteers who are passionate about education. “Liaise with your local community groups, council, agencies, schools… just really utilise all the tools that are already available in the community.”

Whole-of-family approach

Aisea Fifita, Tongan-born father of two and Assistant Rector of Teaching and Learning at Waitaki Boys’ High School, is the lead teacher at the Ōamaru PowerStation.

Aisea says the majority of parents are from the islands and in the islands the schools are expected to run everything with no questions from the parents, but in New Zealand it is very different.

The PowerUP whole-of-family approach, covering Pacific values of faith, respect and wellbeing, has worked well for the first term at Ōamaru, building parents’ capability to support their children’s schooling.

“We’re a very small community and we’re very lucky as almost everyone knows everyone, and that’s key to families in terms of how to support their children at school.

“I love seeing the parents having the confidence to approach schools. Previously they did not question the school, even if they were unsure if their child’s needs were being met. But now they have more understanding about NCEA and all the other things happening at school with their children.”

And the benefits for the kids?

“They’re very positive in terms of learning in a different environment to school, getting all the community together and seeing their parents enjoying their time there and having more understanding of their school processes.”

As a teacher, Aisea feels empowered to support students and their families through their whole education journey thanks to PowerUP.

“I get to talk to teachers from kindergarten and primary school as a community and get to meet the children who are coming through the education system. Knowing them that early, and that one day they will be at high school with me, is very positive.

“I will have ideas about how to help them, and will be able share ideas and strategies with other teachers; it is very powerful.”

Aisea encourages all teachers with Pacific students to get involved with PowerUP.


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

Posted: 1:29 pm, 20 March 2019

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