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Endless opportunities . . . Waitaki Girls' High School's Tongan pupils were treated to a visit from two Auckland-based teachers, Fane Ketu'u (far right) and Ma'ata Fusitua (far left), who taught them about the Lea Faka-Tonga NCEA exams. PHOTO: SUPPLIED BY WAITAKI GIRLS' HIGH SCHOOL

Waitaki Girls’ High School is providing pathways for its Tongan pupils to incorporate their culture into their school curriculum.

The school has been offering Lea Faka-Tonga exams – additional to their NCEA exams – allow its Tongan pupils further opportunities to learn and express themselves in their first language through reading and listening.

Auckland teachers Fane Ketu’u and Ma’ata Fusitua visited the school on Monday to discuss the exams, and Mrs Fusitua would set up a Google classroom to help mentor the pupils from afar.

Waitaki Girls’ international director Sherilyn Hellier said their visit was a result of the school being proactive in providing extra opportunities for its Tongan pupils.

“It’s the fact that we are recognising how important their language – and retaining their language – [is], because many of them are New Zealand born. That’s vitally important that they keep it and understand their culture and their language,” Mrs Hellier said.

About 12 pupils would sit the Lea Faka-Tonga exams this year, and they also allowed for dance credits through traditional Tongan dances.

“That’s something I think the girls will be really keen to explore as well.”

Waitaki Girls’ Tongan liaison Talanoa Palu would visit the school each fortnight to provide support.

Mrs Hellier described Ms Palu as a great asset to the school, and the nine pupils she helped last year produced a 100% success rate in their exams.

The school wanted to be able to offer pupils of other cultures within the school the opportunity to complete exams in their language and cultures, too.

“It’s sparked an interest because now a couple of the girls are inquiring about doing Samoan exams, because that’s their first language.

The school hoped the Ministry of Education would also be able to provide the opportunity for Tuvaluan pupils to sit exams in their own laungage, because Oamaru’s Tuvaluan population was growing.