Radio New Zealand posted a very short article about a Solomon Islands academic working in New Zealand who is urging Pasifika youth to embrace their culture and draw strength from their heritage. Kabini Sanga is an associate professor at Victoria University in Wellington who has established mentoring and leadership training programs for young people in Solomon Islands and New Zealand.
Professor Sanga says in an ever more globalized world knowing and accepting your roots can be an important asset. “Appreciate who you are, be content with who you are. And in being content explore that which is already you. So that in your “daringness” you might even flourish as a person and consequently as a leader.” He continued, “So that the grounds which you conquer might indeed be a blessing not only to yourself and your family but to everyone else.”
In 2016 Herewini Jones, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a New Zealander of Welsh and Maori ancestry devoted much of his adult life to researching the lost cultures of native people in Oceania and America. Herewini grew up at a time when speaking Maori was discouraged, even forbidden. When he was thirty he decided to learn Maori as a gift to his native mother, who burst into tears of joy when she heard him speak the language of her youth.
Herewini shared his vast knowledge and experience during a conference in New Caledonia that was about the heritage of their native peoples. His continued study of the Maori and other native peoples, their languages, traditions and cultural symbols found in architecture, tattoos, stories, family names and words led to a realization that most of the problems experienced by Kanaks in New Caledonia and other native Pacific Islanders could best be addressed by drawing on the strengths of their cultural heritage. So impressed were those who heard Herewini Jones that he was later invited to return to meet with the High Chiefs of New Caledonia.
The importance of educating youth in their own cultures, as well as using indigenous languages to educate them, was stressed back in 2003 at the United Nation’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
A representative of the United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) opened the discussion by stating that millions of children continued to be taught in languages they did not use or even understand. The representative added that the participation of indigenous peoples in designing curricula was still limited, and education still fell short of eliminating prejudice and discrimination targeted at indigenous peoples.
The lack of indigenous education, emphasized a representative of indigenous youth, would continue to set indigenous youth apart from their own cultures. Stressing that education was the key to self-determination, she recommended that educational instruction take place in indigenous languages.
Many recommended that indigenous languages be integrated into national curricula, and urged United Nations agencies to design materials sensitive to the cultural and educational needs of indigenous peoples. They also stressed that multilingual education should occur at all educational levels, and that indigenous peoples be trained so that they could compete both nationally and internationally.
UNESCO’s representatives also stressed that cultural diversity played a vital role in today’s globalized world, and that culture was an essential element of sustainable development. The organization had decided that tangible heritage should be regulated by an international convention, and was currently preparing another instrument on cultural diversity.