Teaching is a selfless duty for Te Tumu lecturer
Increasing demand for Pacific languages to be taught at the University of Otago has seen Dr Telesia Vikatolia Puafisi Kalavite (pictured) join the team at Te Tumu – School of Maori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies.
Telesia, who stems from the village of Nukuleka on Tonga’s largest island Tongatapu, will lecture in an introductory Tongan language course during Summer School (Jan-Feb 2019) as well as working in both the Pacific Islands and Indigenous Development programmes more generally.
With the number of Pasifika students attending the Dunedin-based University increasing along with the number of people interested in learning about the Pacific region, Telesia says there could be more demand for Pacific courses at the University of Otago.
“However, what I can see now is the need for more Pacific languages courses,” she says.
“I believe that if we Pacific Peoples are to preserve our own cultures we need to know how to speak our own languages and promote these languages to non-Pacific peoples.
“We need the confidence to be ourselves as Pacific peoples through speaking our own languages and be proud of them.”
The Tongan educator, translator and Doctor of Philosophy has taught in Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia at primary, secondary and tertiary institutions over many years, including Tonga Institute of Education, Waikato Institute of Technology, The University of Waikato and The University of Southern Queensland.
Although she is in the teaching profession, Telesia also has a passion for the development of her own Tongan, and Pacific peoples’ communities, and has actively participated in many youth, church, university, community groups and non-government organisations.
Telesia says she believes in grassroots development to alleviate the harsh conditions of disadvantage.
From a very early age, education has played a hugely important role in Telesia’s life.
She says her grandfatherTu’uta Puafisi and her parents supported her throughout primary and secondary school, and when she had a family of her own, it was her husband Tahaafe Sione Taulata Kalavite and children who fully supported her journey through tertiary education.
“Seeing my family and my village proud of me at graduation ceremonies inspired me to do even better every year as my only way of honouring them,” she adds.
Telesia’s main purpose in life has been to gain a good education so she could be useful or of practical value to her family and the Roman Catholic Church, she explains.
“For me having a good education has been an ultimate goal because I was told that it is the only way to be able to conduct my responsibilities competently.
“My fatongia (commitments and obligations) are very important and they motivate me to work hard in everything I do in formal education.
“I am always proud to fulfil my fatongia and when for any reason I did not, I felt distressed.
“I believe that for me as well as for many other Tongans, the goal for our education is to be able to help our families, church and the wider communities.”
Helping others to succeed will be a big part of her new role, in which Telesia plans to devote all of her expertise as a professional Pacific educator.
“My areas of expertise are Education studies, Geographic Education, Development studies, Linguistics and Pacific studies.
“I have taught in courses relating to these disciplines, which seems more about life skills and how to survive in this fast changing world.”
Seeing her students successfully complete their qualifications and move on to better opportunities in their lives for their families and communities is a big motivator for Telesia.
“It is so rewarding seeing my students’ successes in life.
“Some of them are still connected in some form or another through their jobs or communities and I love hearing their success stories.”
Telesia is excited about her role at Te Tumu, and is hopeful her work there will contribute positively to the University’s vision to be a research-led institute with an international reputation for excellence; and to its mission, to create, advance, preserve, promote and apply knowledge, critical thinking and intellectual independence to enhance the understanding, development and well-being of individuals, society and the environment.
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