H.T.Y.N.: A place for Samoan 'imagineers’

Earlier in 2017, American business magazine, Forbes published a list of the Top l0 most needed skills for the future.

They included cognitive and technical skills, such as information technology, social and emotional intelligence, and creativity. LinkedIn predicts that in fewer than four years, employers will seek employees with very different skill sets than they do today.

This begs the question, are our young people in Samoa being properly equipped in our current school system to meet that demand in the near future?

The people behind the High Tech Youth Network (H.T.Y.N.) in Matautu think it’s possible and that they may have the solution by filling in gaps where the traditional school model cannot. 

The High Tech Youth organisation began in 2004, in South Auckland, New Zealand and spread to other underserved communities in and around the country. Their vision was about nurturing a connected network of young people and inspirational adults from across the Oceanic region by providing free digital education programmes to underserved youth.

The organisation was invited here by the Samoan Government in the hopes of duplicating its success for our youth.

According to Moananu Tyrone Laurenson, who is the In-country Programme Manager, although this is an outside model being adapted for another country, Samoa fits into the mission at the core of H.T.Y.N. 

He anticipates there will be some challenges in the beginning, but that it is also a very exciting place to be.   

“The mantra for the High Tech Youth Network is about expanded learning opportunities and it revolves around three things: culture, community and technology. 

“Samoa is unique in my view, in that those other countries, like New Zealand, Fiji and the United States -- English is their first language, whereas in Samoa, it is not. We’re actually meeting all the criteria and core values of this organisation.

We should be able to truly meet the culture aspect with our Matai system, we have the village system -- all the structure is in place in terms of culture. So we have all that, where other countries haven’t all got that, necessarily. 

"So that’s what excites us. In terms of technology, our argument is that we already have a demonstration of old technology, in things like the pe’a, the malu and the ie toga.”

As with anything that is experimental, there are some intangible challenges that H.T.Y.N. might come across here. They include trying to work around old attitudes and belief systems, but Moananu believes that this is not something new and that they have come across it before in the Pacific and Maori communities in New Zealand. 

He is confident that once parents see real results coming out of H.T.Y.N. they will be more inclined to be open to innovative learning and ultimately, he is hopeful that they will be able to participate in co-learning and teaching.  

“Speaking as a New Zealand-born Samoan, I know that every Pacific Island parent prioritises education, but then there is having an understanding in terms of what education means.

For instance, my parents said to me ‘You are going to university and you are going to be a doctor’ -- they never thought outside the box. They still had a vision for education but they didn’t realise what else was available, whereas today, you’ve got information technology and social enterprise, and lucrative companies can come out of this. 

"Our view is, if we can give the kids the skills here, and then demonstrate that they can make a living from them, maybe the parents will understand from that.”

Creativity is at the heart of the H.T.Y.N. hub and it aims to provide a safe space for forward thinking and imagining. 

The learning environment supports independent and free thinking in young people while they are exploring, and testing theories and programmes. 

People can expect that there will be very little structure in the centre, which might be another challenge that members may face having been used to a didactic style of teaching in school classrooms. 

At the H.T.Y.N., young people will be encouraged to do lots of peer learning and teaching which will be invaluable in promoting active learning. 

Moananu elaborated more about this. 

“For a start they (the students) talk a language that I don’t understand, that they all understand. They are listening as kids to themselves, there are no adults telling them or dictating to them.

My view is they’ve had enough of a teacher standing in front of them from 9-3pm so when they come here, it’s about being creative, it’s about exploring and thinking for themselves and we adults just wander around making sure that they are not on any inappropriate sites or to be able to advise from our experience or direct them to the right placs for information.“

One of the most exciting resources that H.T.Y.N. has, is its international networks and the fact that peer learning will extend beyond their location here in Samoa. The students will be able to connect online in conference style and participate in tutorials or webinars with other members in their international network. 

So far, different H.T.Y.N.’s have held such conference type tutorials. One recent one was on international coding tutorial, which former U.S President Barack Obama, (a well known fan of the High Tech Youth organisation in his home state of Hawaii) tweeted his support encouraging the kids in the network 

“to keep up the good work”

“This method of learning will revolutionise how information is shared amongst young people connected internationally to then expand and build on to create and invent. It’s about everybody talking, communicating and being creative. It’s just amazing what they can come up with when given a safe space to think and create.”

The Hi Tech Youth Network premises adjacent to Samoa College, boast a film studio, music studio, adobe suite programmes, animation programmes and space for community engagement. They welcome people of the ages between 8 - 26 years, people with disabilities, out of school learners and those who identify as LGQBT. They are also looking for volunteers with industry type skills who can share their expertise and experience with their members, any time is appreciated. 

The official opening of the centre has not been finalised but Tyrone is hoping it will occur before the end of this month. 

* For those interested in volunteering, please contact Moananu 7282151 or email: [email protected]

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