Waikato Uni recognises one of its first Pacific graduates
Le Mamea receives Alumni Award from Waikato University for his contribution to education in Samoa and New Zealand.
A New Zealand university is giving one of its first Pacific graduates a Distinguished Alumni Award.
Le Mamea Taulapapa Sefulu Ioane is receiving it from Waikato University in recognition of his contributions to education in both Samoa and New Zealand.
Le Mamea who graduated Waikato with a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities and a Master of Arts with first class honours in English Literature, spoke to Koro Vaka'uta.
LE MAMEA: I felt quite humbled. I said to myself, well all these years and now all of a sudden I'm required to come to New Zealand for this award. I felt very honoured.
KORO VAKA'UTA: It was a long time ago, but what are your enduring memories of your time at Waikato University?
LM: They were great times. At that time, I was teaching at Melville High School in Hamilton but I also decided, thought that I need to learn something else. So I decided to learn English because I was a very keen reader of historical books. Moreover, some of my very good friends were professors there and that was that, number one. Number two. I also heard that they were going to teach the Maori language and so I decided that now that I'm in New Zealand and I am a New Zealander, I need to learn the language of the Tangata Whenua - the Maori.
KV: Obviously you went on to do many things but one of them was to be the inaugural director of the Pacific Island Education Resource Centre, later named as Pasifika Education Trust. Describe the passion behind your work there and your work with the Pacific community in New Zealand.
LM: Many of our people who came to New Zealand, they came here to work as factory workers and some of them required to learn a little bit more english and some of the firms required senior men in their working fields to become foremen and so forth and leaders. I was very happy that the government of New Zealand recognised the need for Pacific Islanders, especially the New Zealand-born children, to learn the language of their parents. That was the first institute that initiated the language of the Pacific here in New Zealand. I'm glad that is now taken up by some of the universities here.
KV: You've mentioned language, that's one thing, but then culture, I guess it's intertwined, how passionate were you to have Polynesian arts celebrated in New Zealand?
LM: Because of the increasing numbers of our people in New Zealand there was a great need for our own people, especially the New Zealand-born, to refurnish their own culture, to bring their culture here so that when they grow up they know that they are multi-cultural. They have the culture of their island of birth, where they came from originally and they must learn the culture of New Zealand. In those days it was slowly becoming a multi-cultural country. I thought it is good for our people to prepare for that.
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