Teacher and USP Cook Islands student Ana Andrew. 20210815
Deploying an effective academic programme is challenging in the best of times, but it took a pandemic to bring together an all-star roster of Cook Islands academics that are helping a group of local University students to revitilise te reo o te Kuki Airani.
time when so much has been lost for so many, a small group of university
students in Rarotonga are the beneficiaries of what could be an unprecedented
initiative in Cook Islands academia.
month, students completing a course that aims to play a role in revitalising
Cook Islands Maori will have the opportunity to hear directly from a collection
of indigenous academics through a series of one-hour lectures.
course is part of a University of the South Pacific diploma in Pacific
Vernacular Languages: Cook Islands Maori, which is a very academic-sounding
name for a programme that has an all-too important goal: to preserve, teach,
promote, and encourage the use of Maori.
primary outcome for the course is to provide the students – who are all
experienced local education professionals – with the skills and resources to
engage and provide instruction for youth who have the will to learn Maori as a
origins of this drive to lay a solid foundation for the teaching of Cook
Islands Maori goes back many years, says University of the South Pacific Cook
Islands campus director Dr Debi Futter-Puati.
recounts of an evening many years ago attended by elected officials, citizens,
and academics in support of the Confucius Institute, which promotes the
learning of the Chinese language – specifically Mandarin.
Marjorie Crocombe – the first female Cook Islander to be awarded a Doctor of
Letters (honoris causa) by USP – was in attendance, and she questioned why
there were lessons being offered to learn Mandarin, but not Maori.
a very good question to ask, and that was the catalyst for a discussion about
getting a diploma in Cook Islands Maori off the ground,” she says.
the diploma programme commenced with its first cohort of students. Most are
school teachers or principals and are already proficient Cook Islands Maori
makes this month’s Kimi Kiteanga Kuki Airani Research Methods course truly
unique is the pool of academics that have gathered to offer their expertise to
the students. And they’re all Cook Islanders.
presenters are either PhDs, professors, associate professors, or renowned
researchers and are talking about their own research, their data gathering
methods, and how they’ve taken an indigenous, localised approach to their work.
says such a collection of academics coming together could be a first, and the
students stand to benefit from learning about indigenous research methods in
their quest to learn what needs to be done to revitalise Cook Islands Maori.
is a little bit of research that has been done about the status of the
language, but not a lot,” she says.
first lecture occurred earlier this week, when Dr Ake Nicholas from Massey
University appeared via Zoom.
done a huge amount of work around language revitalisation and Cook Islands
Maori,” says Futter-Puati. “She’s an incredible academic.”
coronavirus began throwing challenges in the delivery of higher education,
Futter-Puati and Nicholas began discussing how they could run the course in the
midst of a pandemic, and eventually came up with the alternate method for
one of the fantastic things about Covid-19, it’s made people rethink and
reimagine,” says Futter-Puati.
last 18 months, she has been on a mission to discover as many Cook Islands
academics as possible.
think there hadn’t been a mechanism to bring us all together, and so that was
when we decided to see if we can pull this off and get a different Cook Islands
academic to talk to this group each day.”
addition to Nicholas, lecturers participating in the course also include
Futter-Puati, University of Auckland PhD candidate Eliza Puna, Te Marae Ora
clinical psychologist Dr Evangelene Wong, marine biologist Dr Teina Rongo and
Dr Ali Glasgow from Victoria University of Wellington.
Friday morning, Dr Christina Newport, post-doctoral research fellow at Auckland
University, stood in front of the classroom at USP’s Rarotonga campus.
describes the course as “vitally important”.
Dr Christina Newport. 20210816
are able to take this particular course with this group of students and put in
front of them Cook Islanders who are researchers, that is only going to add to
the type of research they are undertaking, but also the way in which they carry
it out, and really, privileging our own local language and our own perspectives
to come up with solutions that work for here,” says Newport.
month’s academic programme provides an opportunity for students to approach
Maori language-related questions and gaps in linguistic understanding of it
with confidence, she says.
making use of their perspectives as Cook Islanders, as people living,
breathing, teaching Cook Islands languages in a way that hasn’t been done
before,” she says.
aim for Futter-Puati is to normalise the use of Cook Islands Maori in an
academic setting, and break away from the idea that it’s only suitable for
casual settings. To that end, some of the lecturers will be speaking in Maori,
English, and sometimes in both languages.
certainly want to encourage as much Maori as possible, and that Maori is not
just for everyday conversations, but we can also talk about deep, interesting
and complex ideas in Maori as well,” she says.
students participating in the Pacific Vernacular Languages: Cook Islands Maori
programme are all professionals currently involved in the education system,
either in Rarotonga or the Pa Enua.
them is Ana Andrew, a long time teacher with decades of experience at both
primary and secondary school level.
says she is concerned about the decline of Cook Islands Maori, and wants to see
additional support from the government.
really want the inclusion of the government, the education ministry, and our
teachers to commit to upgrading the way we teach Maori,” she says. “Why?
Because our children are now firstly English speakers, and what’s happening in
our schools is that our children find it difficult to learn the Maori language
this month’s schedule of lectures, Andrew and her colleagues will be
undertaking a research project to investigate the current status of Cook
Islands Maori and its role in society.
will give us some findings that we can then look at what needs to happen next,”
says Futter-Puati. “To be able to revitalise the language you need to have
University of the South Pacific's Cook Islands campus director Dr Debi Futter-Puati. 20041407.
student’s findings will be presented during a symposium in late July.
I’m hoping is, from this, they will consider going further and maybe doing a
Master’s degree. I think learning the language as a first-language speaker is
very different from having the tools as a second-language learner,” she says.
what this course is about, it’s about language revitalisation and teachers
having the skills to teach second language learners.”
5 January Dr Ake Nicholas (Massey)
6 January 9am Eliza Puna PhD candidate (UoA)
January Dr Evangelene Daniela-Wong (Te Marae Ora)
8 January Dr Christina Newport (UoA)
January Professor Tania Ka’ai (AUT)
January 9am Dr Teina Rongo
January Makiuti Tongia
January Professor Bobbie Hunter (Massey)
January Dr Neti Herman (UoA)
January Associate Professor Jodie Hunter (Massey)
January Associate Professor Yvonne Underhill-Sem (UoA)