By: Scott Yeoman

(Left to right) Wiremu Whare, Tanzeel Khan, Jackson Filipo and George Wheatley wanted the traditional clothing item included as part of their daily senior uniform. Photo/Andrew Warner.

Tauranga Boys’ College is incorporating a formal lavalava into its uniform for Pacific Island students.

Four year 13 school prefects approached the school and went through a formal process to see if the traditional clothing item could be included as part of their daily senior uniform, and were successful.

Wiremu Whare, 17, Tanzeel Khan, 18, Jackson Filipo, 17, and George Wheatley, 18, saw similar initiatives in action at other schools around New Zealand.

“And we thought if they can do it, why can’t we? That was the motivation to make it happen,” Tanzeel said.

He said they first approached a couple of teachers and then the principal to make the change.

“We had a meeting with the executive council where we proposed the idea, which went well. Then we just tried putting a system in place that next year and onwards it just carries on without having any problems.”

Tanzeel said there had already been a positive response from the Pacific Island students at Tauranga Boys’.

Jackson said it was good to have the Pacific community on the rise and that they were starting to find their identity in the community.

“We’re quite quiet and reserved people and we sort of shy away from the spotlight a bit, but we just want to showcase what we have.”

The four boys said it was about bringing a sense of community to Pacific Islanders at the school and raising both cultural awareness and their voice.

Tanzeel has Fijian heritage, Jackson is part Samoan and Niuean, and Wiremu is Maori and Samoan.

George said he is Maori but had been good friends with the other three since intermediate school.

“This was my way of helping them out, I suppose,” he said.

All four are part of the Pasifika Rise programme at Tauranga Boys’ College, which sees about 50 Pacific Island students meet on Monday mornings at 6am for exercise, breakfast, mentoring and sometimes guest speakers.

Principal Robert Mangan said year 13 boys would be able to wear the formal lavalava as part of their daily uniform, provided they have an entitlement to a “white shirt”.

The college has a “white shirt” entitlement that year 13 students can earn by gaining NCEA Level Two or meeting a certain level of attendance, behaviour and application in the classroom.

“It is a symbol of leadership in the school,” Mr Mangan said.

“It’s still going to be something that they earn, so it’s not an immediate right. With the white shirt, a boy can lose it if he doesn’t maintain the level we would expect in the school.”

Year 9-12 students would be able to wear the lavalava for special occasions such as when they represent the school at cultural and sporting events, he said.

“We have a very active programme to support our Pacific Island boys,” Mr Mangan said.

“There’s a growing awareness of Pacific Island culture, language, identity.”

He said Pacific Island students made up roughly four per cent of the school roll, which equated to approximately 80 students.

“I think it will be outstanding in growing the identity of Pacific Island boys within our school.

“We’ve worked really hard on being culturally responsive as a college having a very strong focus on Maori and growing focus on Pasifika and also Asian.”

He said if other cultural groups wanted to introduce something similar, the school would give this consideration and take it on a case by case basis.

Mr Mangan said there were already some examples of that happening.

“Presently some boys may wear head attire as appropriate in terms of their own religion or cultural beliefs, so there is already responsiveness from the college to cultural or religious items of clothing, and we will continue to try to accommodate these items within our uniform.”

He said it was all about incorporating different cultures into a mainstream school to ensure all boys’ cultural identity is valued and respected.

Source: NZ Herald


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