Conference tackles cultural transition

A New Zealand-based organisation, Sosaiete Aoga Amata Samoa i Aotearoa (S.A.A.S.I.A), staged a conference at the National University of Samoa (N.U.S) this week.

The two-day conference was guided by the theme “Cultural Transition can happen.” 

This is the third time the organisation has held its conference in Samoa.

President, Sala Dr. Fa’asaulala Tagoilelagi-Leota, told the Samoa Observer that bringing the meeting to Samoa was very important to their group and their goals.

 “We can get all the knowledge in the world but cultural knowledge is our philosophy in New Zealand,” she said.

“We need a lot of cultural knowledge on how children were raised, what are the practices for example, how do you translate collaboration? Do we come together under the word “tafesilafai” or fealoaloa’i?”

“How can we do that? We need more qualified teachers who are fluent in Samoan who can teach in Samoan. We need a training that’s all done in Samoan, an early childhood degree, early childhood PHD, everything, all in Samoan language and culture for early childhood.”

S.A.A.S.I.A is a non-governmental organization in New Zealand for teachers, parents and anyone who is interested in early childhood learning that focuses on the fa’asamoa (Samoan heritage) into the system of early childhood (aoga amata).

The participants included teachers, parents, managers and board of trustee members from New Zealand. There were also participants from Tokelau, Hawaii and Australia, which is something they want more of.

Connecting to Samoa is important for the organisation.

“We’ve come here three times, we’ve always made the local registration very cheap and the international delegates carry the conference cost,” said Sala.

“But we have not have a good response this year from E.C.E. Samoa and I totally understand because there are other things they haven’t planned.”

Sala also explained the rationale behind hosting the conference at the N.U.S. The University has a Bachelor of E.C.E hence the reason they asked if the University could co-host the conference.

“We’re just an N.G.O. in New Zealand but we’re here to support the training, the bachelor, how can we help so we brought our textbook called ‘Aupelega o fanau’ and it gives some of our history.

“It gives a reference to the teachers that are training to be early childhood teachers and that’s primarily the reason why we’re here at N.U.S.

“It gives something for them to quote other than something the main western lenses that people talk about but we’ve just started our partnership and we don’t know where it’s going but we’re looking at an academic connection so that we can publish together.”

A group of students from Haeata Community Campus in Christchurch also participated. 

Spokesperson, Jeremy Faaumuina, said bringing the students to be part of S.A.A.S.I.A and experience what aoga amata means has had a huge impact on their lives as Samoan learners.

"It's interesting because our school we range from year 1 to year 13 and for us we only have a few aoga amatas for our kids.

“A lot of them are doing childcare course, we thought instead of going faapalagi style why don't they come and find out what S.A.A.S.I.A really means?

"For a lot of them, it’s like reconnecting with the land.”

The students and some of the conference participants are in Savai'i exploring the big island, enhancing their knowledge of Samoa and fa’asamoa.


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