For three St. John’s College students, learning Gagana Samoa (Samoan language) is not only an opportunity to further their fluency but a chance to connect with their culture.
In an initiative driven by the school, along with principal Rob Ferreira, students are able to access the subject remotely through Volcanics eLearning Community and have dedicated time at school to complete the work.
The ‘Toko Uso’ room, meaning ‘brother’ in both Tongan and Samoan has been developed, in conjunction with the students, as a space for them to devote to their learning.
Teacher in charge of languages, and Pasifika liaison Shelley Oliver (Gateway, STAR and Careers Coordinator) said it is about acknowledging their students’ cultures and providing an opportunity for them to showcase their talents.
“It enables them to achieve and be proud of something.
“What’s nice is they can ask their parents for help, where in other subjects they can’t necessarily, and it allows the parents to be the knowledge givers because sometimes there can be a disconnect.”
For Year 12 student Safune Lafaele, learning Samoan is also a chance to give back to the friend who helped teach him English when he first arrived from Samoa in 2016.
Jahdiel Asovale, who is also studying Level 2 Samoan, was his “google translator” when they attended St Patrick's School as he had moved from Samoa seven years earlier.
While Safune speaks Samoan predominantly at home, Jahdiel tends to speak more English, meaning the two are able to learn off each other.
Safune says he enjoys meeting new people with similar interests and studying with Jahdiel along with his younger brother Sinapati Lafaele.
Sinapati is studying Level 1 Samoan. “I understand it more and it is a way of having a subject that I am good at and want to get better at,” Sinapati says.
“I Like how I get to learn the more formal way of speaking, and also I get to meet new people through Zoom.”
Jahdiel says taking the subject was a natural next step.
“I wanted to learn about the history behind it and to learn more about my culture,” Jahdiel said.
Before taking it last year, Jahdiel says he could speak Samoan, but not formally, nor could he write it.
Last year they had two international students studying Tongan and have the capacity to offer students the chance to study it if they wish.
Mr Ferreira said that he is impressed with the dedication and resilience that these students have shown.
St. John’s College students Jahdiel Asovale (left), Sinapati Lafaele and Safune Lafaele are studying Gagana Samoa (Samoan Language) as a subject at St. Johns College.