Less time at funerals – more time at school


Pika Purotu and her priest, the Reverend Fakaofo Kaio of the Onehunga Cooperating Parish, are campaigning for children to spend less time attending funerals and more time attending school.

They say children should spend a maximum of three days at a funeral – and only if the deceased is a member of their immediate family.

In a report on Stuff, Amanda Saxton has examined the difficulties Pasifika families have balancing family, church and culture with the reality of living in New Zealand.

Purotu, from Pukapuka in the Cook Islands, has been a butcher, shoemaker and social worker.

She told Saxton that while funerals are a chance to reconnect with tradition and far-flung aunts, their length and frequency can sabotage a child’s education.

Kaio told her that he tells parents that as much as he loves to see their children at church, they lose confidence when they’re away from the classroom for too long.

He said he can do 20 funerals a year and the same people attend many of them.

Former secondary school teacher ​Siliva Gaugatao​, originally from Samoa, is doing doctoral research at Auckland University. He focuses on Pasifika staff and student engagement.

Looking at eight years of the ministry’s truancy data, Gaugatao is unimpressed.

“How have they let it get worse? I’m thinking we haven’t really learned anything in that time,” he says.

Out of the 88,000 Pasifika students enrolled in schools around New Zealand in 2018, only 52 per cent attended school “regularly” – defined as more than 90 per cent of the time that they were expected to, according to data from the Ministry of Education.

The national average was 64 per cent.

A spokeswoman for the ministry says parents are primarily responsible for making their children go to school, but Gaugatao reckons teachers need to better understand the dissonance between school life and home life for many Pasifika students.


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