Favona School – Opening of the Vagahau Niue Unit

Photo: Some of the amazing Students in the Manako Lahi Niue Unit
History was made on Friday 8 April 2022 as the first ever Vagahau Niue Bilingual Unit was blessed and opened at Favona Primary School in Mangere. “Manako Lahi – Mokoina Ke he Vagahau Niue” has been a long time in the making and is a true testament to the love and dedication of the staff and community at Favona School. Today I was honoured to attend as a special guest and to speak on behalf of Rowandale School, NZ Pasifika Principals Association (NZPPA) and as a proud NZ born Niuean.

Photo: Traditional Takalo lead by the boys

The ceremony began with a traditional Takalo to welcome the special guests which was followed by a beautiful rendition of the Niue National Anthem led by the students. 

Bishop Tiakia was the presiding minister and he led the devotion which opened the ceremony and set the scene for what was to follow. Diane Wiechern is the Principal of Favona Primary School and she spoke on how this seemed like a really long labour of love and today made everything worth the effort and work. She paid tribute to the staff, students and community and shared how very proud she was of everyone and to be the Principal of an amazing school.

Maria Aka is the Board of Trustees presiding member and she has been privileged to have had two of her own children go through the Niue after school programme and new Vagahau unit. She spoke of the importance of families to continue to support the journey because she herself had gained so much from her involvement. She also mentioned that the unit had the full support of the BoT and that they were very proud of everyone involved. Kiva Jackson was the representative today of the Ministry of Education and has played an important role in realising this dream. To have someone of his stature in the MoE gives hope that more schools will be supported if they to go down this path.

I then spoke on behalf of the NZPPA and Rowandale School and shared with Favona Primary school how proud I am of them and their courage to take this journey. I challenged other Principals to consider setting up units in their schools if the Niue Communities request one. This is now a realistic goal for many schools to accomplish.

Lynne Pavihi is one of the Associate Principals at Favona School and is a champion for everything Vagahau Niue. She shared with how proud she was to be apart of this school which she rightly described as the best around. Mele Nemaia is no stranger to anything Vagahau Niue and it was her leadership and foresight and love for Niue that drove this whole journey. She was very emotional throughout her speech because this day meant so much to her. Mele holds so many hats in the Niue community and she holds huge mana.

Our final speaker was Malama Fotuaga who spoke on behalf of the community and parents. In order for units like Manako Lahi to succeed we need the support and buy in of all families and communities to solidify the partnership. The ceremony was made that much smoother and special with two students MC the whole thing. Jaackshyn Hagaitoa and Fisilia Fineisaloi were amazing.

To finishes the speeches we had a number of students speak and share how proud they were to be associated with the Vagahau Unit. It is always very moving to hear students speaking in their mother tongue with such confidence and pride. Well done: Steven Pooi, Sarah Grace Ikiua, Eva Fata and Kimbryella Lomu you were amazing.

We then carried out the cutting of the ribbon and blessing of the classrooms. The Special Guests then joined the principal and Bishop Tiakia on a tour and further blessing of the junior and senior teaching spaces. 

Under the main marque area was the revealing of the name of the unit and to witness some amazing gifts being presented to Favona Primary School from the families and Niuean community.

To finish off we were joined by the rest of the school who were entertained by the Niuean Students with some amazing and well performed items. No Pasifika event would be complete without some yummy pasifika delicacy and Niue is the best of all. 

I am so proud of Favona Primary School for their courage and dedication to the people of Niue and Vagahau.  Our language is one of the most endangered in the Pacific and having units like this creates hope for a revival and the language to experience a resurgence.