A Ko Awatea campaign designed to get Pacific youth to discuss the challenges they face in education is gaining momentum.
The Speak Up Challenge has now attracted 230 stories, according to Alex Nicholas, project manager, community organising.
The challenge follows on from the Handle the Jandal campaign in which Pacific youth used community organising strategies to take responsibility for their own mental health. This campaign has recently been awarded the New Zealand Youth Group Award at a ceremony at the Beehive in Wellington.
Under the Speak Up Challenge, participants write on their hand a word that summarises their experience within the New Zealand education system as a young Pacific person, and then write a brief explanation.
One participant, for example, wrote the word “brown” on their hand, with the explanatory sentence; “I thought I had to be white to succeed”.
Another story features a student with the word “stupid” overlayed on her hand.
“Attending a decile 1 school means nothing to me, but as soon as other people know that I attend a decile 1 school they call me stupid because of the school I represent and where my school is located.”
The material is being collated on the Handle the Jandal Facebook page, Miss Nicholas explains and participants are asked to nominate others to “speak up”.
The next stage will involve analysing these stories and pulling out key words and themes highlighting the big ideas coming through, she says.
Over the next two months, Miss Nicholas and her youth leadership team will be recruiting high school students from South Auckland who are interested in forming student leadership teams that will be supported to create a local campaign strategy to achieve educational changes that matter to those students.
The campaign strategy has three phases: Speak Up (giving students a voice on education), Stand Up (activating local change) and Shake up. This third phase is where the teams will attempt to get their themes and findings incorporated into policy level.
Miss Nicholas says two themes have emerged so far: participants feel being “brown” means other people have low educational expectations of them; and many participants have talked about experiencing bullying within the system.
“Giving students a voice is one thing, turning that voice into real change is another. Handle the Jandal aims to do both so young Polynesians in South Auckland are included as equal partners in the decisions that directly impact their success in our education system,” Ms Nicholas says.