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West Auckland school introduces Pasifika uniform after inspiring trip to Samoa

Grace Tinetali-Fiavaai

Bruce McLaren Intermediate introduces lavalava and ie faitaga for students

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Students at a West Auckland intermediate school have introduced a formal piece of clothing from the Pacific Islands to its uniform list, after an inspirational school trip to Samoa.

Bruce McLaren Intermediate, in Henderson, recently added a formal lavalava for girls and the same for boys - known as an ie faitaga. The ie faitaga is usually worn in formal settings by men and boys around the Pacific and is known as a tupenu in Tonga and sulu in Fiji.

The school’s Samoa Identity Language and Culture unit travelled to Samoa last month - a trip that was planned three years ago, before Covid-19 hit.

Teacher Helen Magasiva said on numerous field trips, boys wear an ie faitaga and girls wear a lavalava.

“They’ve been on many trips and class excursions and usually wear an ie faitaga - and a Samoa trip was coming up.”

Students show off their special Bruce McLaren Intermediate ie faitaga. Photo / Grace Tinetali-Fiavaai

Magasiva said while planning the trip, they thought about creating a special ie faitaga with the school’s logo for those students going to Samoa representing their school. They presented the concept to the school principal and she agreed.

Principal Liz Wood acknowledged what the ie faitaga and lavalava are to students in the school’s identity, language and culture class. Wearing them is already a way of life outside of the classroom.

“It makes sense to ensure our students have a uniform to be proud of and one of the highlights of their identity.”

Bruce McLaren Intermediate students on the ferry to Savaii in Samoa. Photo / Supplied

Bruce McLaren Intermediate is now one of a number of schools around the country to introduce ie faitaga or lavalava to their uniform list, including Napier Girls’ High, who made headlines this week.

The purpose of the trip was to immerse students in Samoan culture and provide them with an authentic experience of how things are conducted there - as opposed to how things are done in New Zealand.

The group toured both main islands of Upolu and Savaii and were hosted by four schools - Peace Chapel Christian School, Robert Louis Stevenson Primary, Saipipi Primary and Taga Primary.

They also enjoyed a day with children at a Sunday School in the village of Siutu, in Savaii.

The students got to experience village life and get an insight on Samoan life - from preparing a traditional umu meal to taking part in a traditional ava welcoming ceremony.

From West Auckland to Samoa: Students from Bruce McLaren Intermediate join pupils in Samoa on a special trip last month. Photo / Supplied

Wood said the trip was an incredible learning experience for staff and students alike.

She said making new connections, meeting aiga (family), travelling around the country and exploring the history and geography of Samoa - as well as visiting local schools and villages - was learning in real-time.

“It provided the opportunity to be immersed in the authentic way of life and for students to gain an appreciation of what life and education was like in Samoa.”

Hero image: Students from Bruce McLaren Intermediate's Samoa Identity Language and Culture unit with teacher Helen Magasiva in their lavalava and ie faitaga. Photo / Grace Tinetali-Fiavaai

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