We Are Aoteaoloa - eNews
Meet Kimiora Malesala
Imagine it’s day one of term 4, and Kimiora Malesala is excited for her Tuesday night Basic Samoan language class in Central Auckland. The new adult students come in to the classroom and are surprised to learn that although Kimiora looks like she could be a fellow student, she is actually the teacher! Kimiora is young – just 22 years of age – and is the first to admit she “doesn’t look Samoan.” She has been teaching Basic Samoan classes at the Pasifika Education Centre all year and is used to people thinking she is a learner rather than the educator. “I get rewarding feedback from my students who say they find me less intimidating,” she says. “They feel comfortable asking questions because I’m younger and New Zealand-born.”
Kimiora is the daughter of a Māori mother and Samoan father. Her dad Alaelua Taulapapa Leasoiloaifaleupolu (Malesala) also teaches Basic Samoan at PEC. She says growing up she attended Māori schools where she predominantly spoke te reo Māori, but at home her father spoke Samoan and the family attended Samoan church. Her parents made a conscious decision to ensure their children had a balance of both languages and cultures. She has been raised to value her languages and studied both te reo Māori and gagana Samoa at high school and University.
“I was never made to choose which language or culture I identify with,” she admits. “They were always equal. I was also taught to value not just the ability to speak my languages but also to understand the cultural practices and behaviours.”
She learned of an opportunity to share her language knowledge at PEC through her father and was grateful to become a tutor. “I like to meet the different people that enrol for my class,” she comments. “My students are a mix of non-Samoans that want to learn the language because they have a Samoan partner or an interest in Samoa, afatasi (half-Samoans) like me, or those who are full Samoan but never had the opportunity to learn the language. It’s quite an honour for me to be with them as first time learners at the start of their language journey. One of the first things I teach them is how to introduce themselves in Samoan. It’s a skill that they can use for any occasion. It’s empowering for them to be able to say who they are at work or in social situations. For those who are Samoan it’s a way of connecting them with their identity, and for those who are not it gives them confidence to practice speaking Samoan in a classroom setting.”
Kimiora has just completed her fourth year of a Bachelor of Arts/Law conjoint degree at the University of Auckland. She plans to eventually work in criminal or family law and has an interest in working with Māori and Pasifika youth and families. “Being trilingual has been beneficial for me in terms of getting scholarships at school and now employment opportunities. I’ve been hired to work while completing my degree because of my language skills. For me it is all about being able to give back to my communities.”
Kimiora is young and driven and an example of how focusing on learning a Pacific language can open opportunities for scholarships, employment and strengthening identity. We are grateful to have Kimiora as part of our PEC network of tutors.