Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Can Manukau City make lemonade?

City hopes for Pacific language focus - 28 Apr 2007 - Samoans in NZ

Great story about Manukau City being one of the most bilingual cities in New Zealand. To a word-freak like me, that's great! But I know many New Zealand-born Pacific islanders who see their language and culture as a liability, not an asset.

It's good to see Manukau City recognising the potential wealth of knowledge and skill that lies dormant. My wife Marie is teaching in south Auckland at the moment, and sometimes finds it hard.

I don't want to talk out of turn - and this is second-hand, so that's even more out of turn - but there's a kind of feeling that people in South Auckland have given up. Life is small, narrow, cramped. There's no sense of the limitless possibilities.

Entrepreneurial companies like Dawn Raid seemed to offer hope, but now that they've gone into liquidation it seems there's little in the way of role modelling for young people growing up in South Auckland.

I hope I'm wrong, though. And I think I might be. Yesterday Marie told me about one of her students, a 17-year old guy that all the other tutors had warned her about. He's badly behaved, and gets cheeky, they said.

So Marie set about what she does best - making the class engaging and fun for everyone. Turns out this guy is not the bad news he might seem to be. Instead, he's smart - answering the questions that stumped other students.

And he's responsible - he won't be at school today because he's out with his girlfriend buying clothes for their baby, due in December. He's sticking with her, even though his mother has told him to F off, so he has to stay with his girlfriend's parents.

All this, at 17.

It's a bad situation, but just imagine what that character and determination could do in a good situation!

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