Head Boy calls on Samoans to use language

The Head Boy at Henderson Intermediate School in New Zealand, Neironi Stevens has called on Samoans to “wake up” and use our Samoan language “before we lose it.”

Mr. Stevens, a student at Henderson’s Bilingual Unit called Tupu ma Ola, made the call when he addressed school administrators and his peers during a special assembly that closed the New Zealand government-sponsored Samoan Language Week.

Speaking in Samoan and English, Mr. Stevens quoted the late Aiono Dr. Fanaafi Le Tagaloa – who is considered an authority on Samoan culture and language – in his speech, saying: “If there is no language, there’s no culture. If there’s no culture then darkness falls upon the village.”

 “We first of all give thanks to our Father in Heaven for bringing us here on this beautiful day. My name is Neironi Stevens. This week is Samoan language week so we’re very proud to celebrate it,” he said.

“The theme for this week is pou pou le lotoifale ola manuia le anofale, which means: strengthen the posts of your house for all to thrive. Language is important for the foundation of our overall well-being so we all need to do our part in keeping it alive.”

The Samoan language is important to Mr. Stevens.

It is his “gift from God,” he said.

“My language is important to me. It’s my gift from God, my heritage and my identity. It helps me remember who I am and where I’m from,” said Mr. Stevens.

“A well-known saying from Dr Aiono Fanaafi goes like this: If there is no language, then there’s no culture. If there’s no culture then darkness falls upon the village. That’s why we need to treasure our language by using it. If we don’t, we’ll lose it. Samoa, wake up! Use our Samoan language, it is our gift from God.”

Later, the Head Boy Stevens led Tupu ma Ola out onto the stage for siva and pese.

There are 115 Samoan students enrolled at Henderson, said Principal Wendy Esera who is married to a Samoan.

“As a school, we are feeling very proud. Many of our students are Pacific students…Samoan Language Week is an annual event when schools, communities and workplaces celebrate the Samoan language. NZ has a large number of Samoans who call New Zealand home,” she said. 

“One of those happens to be my husband who is here today with us. We have 115 Samoan children so we have a high number of children in our school who are Samoan. We have our own Samoan bilingual Unit called Tupu Ma Ola.”

She thanked Tupu ma Ola teachers for their work in preparing for Samoan Language Week. 

In his speech that closed out Samoan Language Week, Aupito William Sio Member of Parliament for Mangere, New Zealand said it was honour to mark the conclusion of Gagana Samoa Week 2021. 

He thanked the Consul General Samoa to New Zealand Faaolotoi Reupena Pogi, his ministerial colleagues and the Ministry for Pacific Peoples for their.

The Samoan and the wider community in Aotearoa including the Sosaiete Aoga Amata Sāmoa I Aotearoa Incorporated (S.A.A.S.I.A.) and the FAGASA organisation “who have pulled together an exceptional week full of laughter, colour and wonderful food were also thanked. 

He also extended thanks to Papatoetoe High School for hosting the opening ceremony “especially the youth leaders from high schools across the Auckland region that played a key role in that ceremony. 

“I was so impressed by all your efforts. It has been such a pleasure to participate in such a successful and enjoyable Pacific Language Week and to be back together in person after the first ever online series in 2020.  As with every Samoan language week, the highlight for me is connecting with my community and especially our young people,” Aupito said.

“One event that stood out for me this week was an ava ceremony hosted by the students…it was encouraging to see our young people navigate through the ava process proving that they are the poutu – the strong confident, steadfast posts of our families. Thank you all very much for your wonderful efforts. You made us all so proud and gave us confidence in the future.”

The M.P. said he feels “confident in saying that in this Samoan Language Week the strength of our languages as one of the key pillars of our Pacific identity was enhanced.”

“Thanks to the whole country and families and churches, youth groups for their support of the youth during this week. May their understanding of our language and culture arm them so they will be used as posts – strong, righteous, loving posts in the future to bless our country,” said Aupito.

Henderson's Samoan Language Week program and the speech from Aupito were published o Facebook and Twitter, respectively.

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