It's that time of the year again, when our high school and university students stress and find the motivation to study for their exams. Samoan students are different in that they have family,church,community and village obligations on top of their school work. Time management is a big part of being a Samoan student. Unlike our overseas counterparts, who have 'extracurricular' activities such as watching TV,learning how to play an instrument, playtime, social outlets, shopping malls and other entertaining mediums, we have feaus and more feaus to do. We struggle fro balance from high school to university especially when all these other obligations are pulling us each way.
In university a lot of Pacific Islanders struggle with academia, it’s not because we are lazy or stupid. It’s because we are interconnected to our family, church and community. These are our lifelines and so we are part of them as much as they are a part of us. All these factors play a big role in our everyday lives. It is a psychological battlefield because institutions tell us that we are no good and that we are just not good enough to be more than average. Most alarmingly, we are our worst enemies for BELIEVING THIS lie! We tend to sway towards negative thoughts and we forget to stir each other up and motivate ourselves to do better. Instead, we have more negative spears looking at us on the streets, laughing at us in the library and jumping on our backs on the way to class.
Universities in New Zealand are trying to solve this currently as more academics learn that Pacific Islanders' learning behavior and techniques are quite different. In my 2nd and 3 rd year of university, I had the privilege or working closely with younger Pacific students (Mostly Samoan and Tongan) to help them achieve and reach their academic goals. It was rather interesting discovering several reasons why we are set up to fail in University:
- Most lecturers read from their notes and leave it up to the student to find their own way in the dark. I had some of the most brilliant professors who were the complete opposite of cliché teachers. They were intelligent, humorous and they actually made me look forward to going to class! Pacific Islanders are part of the Victorian “we”, we live, we use,we are, we become. Our first teachers are our parents, some people might call it spoon-feeding but that is how we first learn. We learn through examples and explanations. We learn by going outside and looking at the world around us. Our ancestors learn through mouth to ear, telling stories passed from generation to generation. The medium in which modern teaching is carried out hinders our learning senses. This is not to blame the old traditional teaching methods, it's just the way it is.
- The worst part for Pacific Island students is that their time management sucks! I know this because usually for proofreading and research, we allowed students to hand in their essays or reports two weeks before the due date. Guess what time they come to me for help? A day before the paper is due!Some even come a week after the due date (on the verge of tears with a sob story and a convincing face to go with it)
- Most students are scared to ask questions in class for fear of embarrassment, shyness and sometimes pride. They mostly fear talking to their lecturers one on one. We come from islands where we respect our elders, teachers and our betters and some cultures we are taught to listen and do, not listen and ask questions)
- Devil mentality. Essays are the biggest evil in the world and reports were created by the devil to endanger the lives of us mentally. Therefore, leave everything to the last minute with the hope that a natural disaster or a snow storm will hit campus so that we can get another 2 weeks extension (usually never happens)
- Students are not confident in what they write and instead of asking for help, they form groups that will help comfort them. They complain about how stupid the lecturer is or how hard the essay question was, and how smart mouth one Chinese is in the class (there’s one in every course)
- Pacific Island students have no idea where to find the right information! They stick to out of date books from the library, get loads of information from ‘google, Wikipedia, online dictionary’ which will not help please lecturers at all. Hence the perception we are all brown lazy coconuts. Journals are from an alien word to most students and trying to find this information online is like finding a needle in the haystack.
- Other super smart, talented Pacific Islanders are just that—too smart and not willing to listen or help their fellow brothers in arms. If we have one in every ten Pacific Island helping their fellow student out, even with just some encouraging words and motivating atmopshere..imagine the difference that would make! Imagine what ten more people can achieve!
- My parents are too busy to take notice. Some parents are too busy working to invest and share in the development of their child. While working many hours put food on the table and help keep a roof over our heads, being present at parent teacher day and just supporting students will make an enormous difference.
- Too much social media and socializing, too much clubbing and competing for ’99 bottles of beer on the wall’
- Priorities are all over the place-games,outing,youth group, parents then school
- Cs Get Degrees (don’t know who came up with this dumb quote that is now some students mottos). Once someone said this to me and I retorted..”well let me ask you ask you something, If I was the boss and 2 graduates come to be—one with All Cs and took 8 years to graduate vs a bright kid who graduate top of his class..Who do you think I will choose? Fast learner? Innovative.
There are many more ways that discourage our students and prevent them from succeeding, I do hope they see their parents toiling away for a better future and get the courage to succeed. Failure is never an option and we were meant for so much more. So, rise up from your sleep, study, sweat, cry if you must but do not ever give up the good fight!