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Women Speak Out! A Report of the Pacific Women's Conference. October 27 – November 2

New Zealand

New Zealand

We are here as women to look at ourselves and to ask ourselves: Why are we here? What have we to offer each other? What are we going to do as women of the Pacific area?

I won't go through the education system that exists in New Zealand because it is here - it's right here - in the Pacific area. Whatever nation you turn to - be it the Cooks, Tonga Fiji - it's an imposed, it's an introduced education system. Because it is an introduced education system it produces products more biased towards Western concepts. While this education system exists in the Pacific area, you will not stop the flow out of the Pacific area. Pacific Islanders page 34 will flow to New Zealand, they will flow from your rural areas to your cities, to your urban areas, they will flow to Australia.

I ask you the question: “Education for what?” Why are we educating these Pacific islanders, why is the education system British in Fiji, New Zealand, in other areas? Education for what? As suggested by somebody yesterday - for brown-skinned pakehas? I'll give you my answer - education to provide the more industrialised areas of the Pacific, including Suva, but mainly for urban areas of Auckland, Wellington, with manpower. While these education systems are here our young manpower will flow to the cities.

You won't stop the migration - you can jump, you can scream, you can do whatever you like - you won't stop our young people leaving our shores and going overseas, because the opportunities are there, because that's what the education system has made them do, and that's what you, as a mother, expects of your child. Some of us may be slow to admit but we are very conscious of status - for our child to be a teacher, for our child to be government-employed, for our child to be in some fairly responsible positions in ministries: they have done well. But for our child to be planting, for our child to be fishing, for our child to be helping in the community - there's an air of embarrassment, we're slightly sad. Why should we be?

Unfortunately, the education system here prepares people, our young people, for things that are beyond what the environment can provide; prepares them to aspire beyond what their immediate area can give them. You know as a mother, (and you know that your husband thinks the same as you do) that for your child to be successful is to sit with a white collar and a tie and glory in a package with paper money in it. That is a successful person who has come through the system.

Is that all the education system is about? I hope not. Because it is examination-orientated, this flow continues. My remedy is: Here we are right in the centre of a place that can help to change the education system. What is our page 35 backbone in the Pacific area? We've got the sea around us, and the little bit of land that God had provided. Agriculture and the sea - those are our industries. We don't have the mineral resources that other highly developed areas of the world have, but we do have these other resources. Our products are to be found in the waters, are to be found in the land. That is our backbone, and that is what the education system should be doing, looking and adapting its curriculums to suit the needs of the local, indigenous person, not to prepare us to provide manpower beyond the horizon.

I will tell you a little bit of the New Zealand education system. I am speaking as a person who has come through that factory as Esiteri Kamikamica has said. I hope I don't belong to the small elite, useless, group. The New Zeland system then is pre-school, primary, intermediate, secondary, tertiary - just as it is here. Of the areas of New Zealand where Pacific islanders are to be found, mainly Auckland, Tokoroa, Hawkes Bay and Wellington, by the time they reach 6th or 7th form, 98% ‘drop out’, if I may use the term here. How many come through then to become useful tools? Education is a tool to be used for the betterment of yourself and your fellow people and more especially, as migrant people in a new society, for the betterment of our own people trying to adapt to a new way of life.

But who can survive the system? I know of one Cook Island girl, in Wellington, who is going to training college; I know of five Samoans who are going to training college; I know of three Samoans who are at present at Wellington Teachers' Training College. You can count them all on your fingers. When you think of the large population of Porirua, Wellington, the Hutt Valley, that is very inadequate a number to be of use to the Pacific Islands people in just Wellington, let alone Auckland, which has a much greater population…