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New Fijian Language School in Southland

Jan 06, 2021
2746 Views

Thanks to a new Fijian language school, “bulavanaka” may soon be a common greeting in the South. RNZ Otago Southland reporter Timothy Brown went along for a lesson and has the story.

Southland’s climate may be the butt of many jokes elsewhere in the country, but even the hardest locals will concede it’s a far cry from the islands of Fiji.

But despite the weather, the deep south is home to a growing Fijian community with the Southland Fijian Society well established for the last decade.

The growth has come from trades coming into the country, and farm workers, says      president Philharmonie Tangitakamba.

He says the society tries to keep Fijians in touch with their language and culture, and fears children born and raised in New Zealand may not get the same exposure, which sparked the idea for the Kaiviti kids club – to teach them about their heritage.

“It’s funny when you’re in Southland you’re mostly surrounded with Europeans and all other races, but to keep the culture going it’s good for the kids, because later on in life they’ll probably question us about who teaches Fijian, or I want to know what they’re talking and all that kind of carry on, so it is important for their growth and their learning ability to know some other language.”

The club’s founder Miri Tauwali says the response from the children has been great, and they love it.

“I sometimes am like ‘oh is anyone going to turn up?’ and get more than 20 kids, they turn up every fortnight, and so I asked for feedback from the children after like the next week… so we’re still getting kids come over, so that’s good. It shows that they’re really enjoying it.”

Mrs Tauvali says she loves seeing the children take on board their culture and language, especially as her two children are among those involved.

“I get emotional talking about it because we do it from our heart and we enjoy the preparation, and because we were just starting to apply for funding and the teachers work together, so whatever they have at home they bring it to the club, (food and resources) – so it means a lot that the parents do care, and they want their children to learn about their culture and their identity.”

Rahila Cuaro says he’s loving the chance to learn the language and Celeste Jordan agrees it’s been fun learning new stuff with the teachers.

The club started during Fijian Language Week in October and Philimoni Tangitakabao says it has run fortnightly ever since, and gone from strength to strength.

He believes it’ll grow in the years to come in the community.

“I can see in the next few years it’ll grow when the borders open, but yeah because a lot of people are here without their kids as well, so once the border is open it’ll grow substantially – so hopefully this is just the start of a small thing, and so they can take over and look after themselves.”

The club met for the last time for this year last weekend, but they’ll be back again in the New Year.

Source: rnz.co.nz Republished by arrangement.

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