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Dressed up . . . Celebrating Tongan culture at St Joseph's School last week are pupils (back row, from left) Manu Ahotaeiloa (7), Mele Ahotaeiloa (8), Aria Oakes (8), Marconi Hausia (9), Siale Tokai (7), Moana Hafoka (8); (front row, from left) Manase Oakes (5), Sesilia Hausia (7), Dihviyn Soane (7), Maria Hafoka (5) and Evan Soane (5). PHOTO: GUS PATTERSON

For Marconi Hausia, Tongan Language Week was an opportunity to share his culture with his school.

St Joseph’s School was one of many across the Waitaki district, and New Zealand, embracing Tongan Language Week on September 6-12.

This year’s theme was “fakakoloa ‘o Aotearoa ‘aki ‘a e Lotu Mo’oni”, which means “enriching Aotearoa New Zealand through prayer and faith”.

Marconi (9) said his favourite part of the week was singing and dancing to Tongan songs.

At home, Marconi speaks mostly Tongan, but he speaks English at school. It was “cool” to be bilingual, he said.

St Joseph’s School teacher and Waitaki Tongan Community president Tuavale Misiloi said many schools in the Waitaki district celebrated their Tongan heritage and culture last week.

She estimated there were more than 500 people who identified as Tongan living in Oamaru.

It was important for the children to celebrate their heritage and culture, as well as share it with the wider school community, Mrs Misiloi said.

St Joseph’s School principal Lorraine Frances-Rees said Tongan was now the school’s majority ethnic group behind pakeha, with 27 pupils who identified as Tongan at the school.

“The mixture of all our cultures is the essence of the school,” Mrs Frances-Rees said.

“Our Tongan culture is so proud and it helps all of our cultures be proud.”