Comment on the Summit from Popo Su'a

Talofa Lava and Greetings. My name is Popo Su’a, a Church Minister serving the Congregational Christian Church Samoa, Ketesemane Parish in the city of Porirua. I have served the community for a period of just over 40 years.

As the Elder Minister of the Congregational Christian Church, I oversee all the Churches in Porirua City extending to Manawatu, Hawkes Bay and Taranaki Districts. Eleven Churches altogether. I am also the Chairperson of the Wellington Region Fellowship of Samoan Ministers, an interdenominational membership, who initiated the successful Pacific Trades Training Scholarship initiative. Its membership is just under forty.

Because I did not have an opportunity to say what I wanted to say last Friday during the Shine workshop, I felt compelled and moved to write this letter to voice my opinion.

Listening to what had been said on the day, I believe all were well meaning and and showed excellent motivations as we seek for new ways and means to make a change to education in Porirua. The coming together of the community to realise the potential of young people of Porirua, to work collaboratively, to support each other, and much much more that came out from participating members. And as such, there were robust discussions, principles, guidelines and recommendations that will make a genuine difference to our children’s education. Fa'afetai lava.

However, and this is from my perspective, I am concerned that the focus was primarily around seeking new ways of educating parents and the community on how they support their child to succeed. If my understanding of what I heard was right, then I believe that this risks being just repetition of the same method of approach veiled as new.

Unfortunately, there was no mention during discussion times, suggesting a possible change by way of recognising parents/community initiatives - where they take the the lead in developing a model of genuine collaboration in a way they see it - which is something that has never been explored before. Correct me if I am wrong, but aren't the schools meant to be serving the needs of the community/families/learners?

I believe: Based on my experience of the Porirua Pacific Community, I believe that a key factor to improving educational outcomes and ultimately, success for our Pacific Children (all children for that matter) will come about when the professionals take time to listen to what parents want, and build on those needs. This is obviously proving to be successful, as shown in Pat’s video. Watching that video convinced me that the story presented, clearly outlined what I believe will certainly improve our Pacific children’s education in Porirua.

  • The Community (parents) have the wisdom
  • Professionals (School/Teachers) have the knowledge
  • The Government (Ministry) has the resources

Referring to Pat Sneddon's presentation; he invited the two girls to explain the bad things they knew about their community. He was seeking funds for his proposal to set up a service to help improve the standard of education of this particular area in Auckland. And so, he wanted the girls from the community to inform the businessman and to validate what he believed was happening in the community.

The girls’ only reply was that they didn’t know of any bad things happening in their community! Then he asked them again: What do you want me to do for you? One girl replied, I need a laptop. Another girl needed a camera. The funder did what the girls wanted and more! And building on what the girls wanted, Pat, as a professional, created a programme full of excitement for the kids, which eventually lead to success. The success of the programme from what I saw was based simply on the fact that he did listen. He listened to the community. The community has the wisdom. They know their culture, they know their community structures.

The knowledge that the professionals have will enable them (if they listen) to see what and how these needs can be shaped into learning practice.

Let me explain it from our simple terms. We hear you clearly saying make sure your kids do their homework at home, read their books, don’t watch TV, sleep early, etc., etc. This information has been around for many years.

If only the professionals would ask us what we as parents/community want and need to improve our children’s learning, I will say set up homework centres. Run them in the way you know is best, and let the Government provide resources to fully equip them with computers, the internet, and all the necessary learning materials. The parents will make sure to bring their children to the centre where there is no TV, no noise, no distraction. They will guarantee their homework will be done, they will read their books, while teachers are there to provide help and assistance when needed. The community can support by offering volunteers, facilities like Church halls, etc., etc.

Telling the parents what to do is a no show. Doing what the parents believe is best will bring willingness to collaborate. Investing Government resources under community direction will certainly lead to success. And I guarantee that in five years’ time, Pacific Education in Porirua will be flourishing - and that will be one headline.

God Bless Rev Elder Popo Su’a (F.T)

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