Talks underway to have Vagahau Niue taught at tertiary level in NZ

As part of efforts to sustain the indigenous language of Niue, talks are underway for Vagahau Niue to be taught at tertiary level in New Zealand.

The Education Director Birtha Tongahai said the department is working closely with stakeholders on the proposal.

Earlier this year, Dr Colin Tukuitonga suggested that vagahau be taught in universities in New Zealand.  

More than 20 thousand Niueans reside in New Zealand.

“The department is working with the head of linguistics at the University of the South Pacific which also has contacts at the University of Auckland and Massey University, Tongan is also taught well in the university in Auckland so we have a contact there as well and also Massey. Also some of the representatives of the Niue community in New Zealand to put something together and offer vagahau niue at university especially to teach the use of vagahau niue because we need more teachers to teach vagahau niue. That’s the barrier at the moment in terms of offering vagahau niue at many schools.

At the moment there are only two secondary schools offering vagahau niue and maybe only four primary schools so that’s not enough to cater for the 25,000 Niuean population in New Zealand.

So we are working together there is a strategy that is in progress, I think Colin is also talking to Minister Sio this month and we’re also submitting to cabinet for their consideration because we need a tripartite effort to lift the status of vagahau niue.” said Tongahai

The Director of Education said vagahau is at a risk of being endangered if it’s not being actively used.

She also highlighted there are some misconceptions about the native language by some parents.

“At the moment I think we’re heading that way if we continue to speak English to our children at home, or not actively using vagahau in the communities , at home, at the workplace, because at the moment English is like a tsunami just drowning out all our efforts in speaking vagahau niue. The other problem is also the limited vernacular resources. Last year we produced our first dual resources, these are journals for primary school, we printed 6 titles both in English and vagahau and it cost $7000 to produce hundred copies of each of those resources and we would like to publish more vernacular resources, dual resources printing them both in vagahau and English in one booklet because i believe that’s the most effective way to encourage children to read and if we make it available in two languages , it will help them so they can read both sides and also take it home to read with their parents.

The other barrier is that I think parents are misguided in thinking that if their children speaks English only that would fast track or help them towards academic success but we all know if you’re bilingual or trilingual with some of the students here on niue that will also help support a person’s intellectual capacity and capability.” said Tongahai

Vagahau Niue is currently being taught on the island in Early Childhood Education, primary and high school as well as the University of the South Pacific.

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