Tongan community in Auckland celebrates opening of new early childhood centre

by Dr Linita Manu’atu

UPDATED 5:30PM: At this time in Auckland, New Zealand there is every effort put in to Early Childhood Education by both Government and Pasifika communities to ensure that the majority of Pasifika children gain quality early learning before they enter primary schooling.  Tongan people are on board with the Ministry of Education to try and address the requirements by Pasifika peoples in Early Childhood Education.

A new Tongan Early Childhood Playgroup and Educational Centre has opened at the suburb of Mt Roskill in Auckland on August 1 and named Muniao ‘o e ‘Ofa (in English, Net of Love) by Hon. Lupepau’u Tuita, the eldest daughter of Princess Pilolevu Tuita of the Kingdom of Tonga.

The opening and blessing of the Educational Centre and Playgroup was marked by a ceremony led by Father Line Folaumoeloa with Hon. Lupepau’u as the Guest of Honour.

The educational centre of Kau Fakana’ana’a ‘o Falelalava & Loto’Ofa WhatuManawa Educational Services will offer playgroups for two-days a week, starting on August 12.  The  line-up of services provided by the centre include ‘Api Fakakoloa, Early Childhood Home Base of the Loto’Ofa WhatuManawa Education Services; Tongan cultural resources and handicraft work of the Tongan Women Development Group of Aotearoa; and a Writing Retreat programme for Tongan educators of the Fakakoloa ‘a e Tonga ‘I Aotearoa Tongan Early Childhood Association to write Tongan reading materials for Tongan children in early childhood education.  The centre will truly become a site of learning, a space of reflection and thinking, a home for mothers, children, parents, the elderly, teachers, educators and friends who enjoy the company of each other in working towards changing our thinking and actions for a better world that benefits our children and people.

The ideas and work for the Muniao ‘o e ‘Ofa Centre were originated by, and implemented under the join leadership of Mr. Johnny Grattan Vaea and Mele ‘Ileini Mahe Taione as co-directors of the Loto’Ofa WhatuManawa Education Services.

The centre is situated on the New Zealand Department of Conservation property while the New Zealand Ministry of Education contributed to funding the renovation of the building and fencing.

The guests include a team from the New Zealand Ministry of Education led by Yvette Guttenbeil-Po’uhila; Meleseini Tu’itupou, the President of the Fakakoloa ‘a e Tonga ‘I Aotearoa Tongan Early Childhood Association; educators from various Tongan Early Childhood Education centres in Auckland; Seini Rea, Heleine Kaho, Helena Kafoa with members of the Tongan Women Development Group of Aotearoa;  members from other Government organisations and supporters of Early Childhood Education.

The Muniao ‘o e ‘Ofa Playgroup welcomes children and their parents from the neighbourhood and the suburb.

Our best wishes to all people, their work and education at the Muniao ‘o e ‘Ofa Education Centre.

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