by Wendy Carss and Beryl Exley
Bula! The International Development Oceania Committee (IDOC) undertook its "Information Text Awareness Project" (ITAP) in Nadi, FIJI from August 23-25, 2012.
Hosted by Dr. Apolonia Tamata of the iTaukei Trust Fund Board and held at the Fiji National University (FNU) Namaka campus, the first day was an engaging and professionally rigorous academic conversation about the status of vernacular languages in Fiji and the role of schooling in strengthening vernacular language usage. The symposium was attended by members of the Fiji National University, the University of Fiji, the Ministry of Education, the Curriculum Development Unit, the University of the South Pacific, the College for Higher Education Studies, the iTaukei Trust Fund Board, the South Pacific Board for Education Assessment and 20 teachers from local primary schools.
The opening keynote, presented by Professor Subramani (FNU), demonstrated that the Fijian language had the capability to adapt to new language demands. A series of panels covered topics such as research into Fijian literature and literacy, IDOC’s international projects, the teaching and assessment of literacy in schools in the Pacific Region and the status of literacy teaching and learning for Indigenous students in New Zealand and Australia. A highlight of the day was Kelera Tuvou’s (FNU) presentation on contemplating literacy and iTaukei writers and literature. Her passionate plea reminded those attending that "if we do not write about us, then the door is open for others to write about us." An exciting outcome of this symposium was the establishment of a steering committee to form FIJI’s first literacy educators’ association.
The symposium provided the stimulus for the practical application of the ITAP workshop which was held on the following two days and facilitated by Wendy Carss (New Zealand Literacy Association) and Beryl Exley (Australian Literacy Educators’ Association). The first day of the workshop reviewed the five power genres used in schooling contexts: report, explanation, exposition, recount and procedures. Participants deconstructed sample texts to highlight significant staging and textual features to promote the use of a common metalanguage. Participants eagerly shared personal cultural artefacts as a stimulus for producing a range of information texts in their vernacular. Texts included: procedures for weaving baskets, making kava and boiling bread fruit; recounts of weaving a fan from pandanus leaves; an explanation of the classification of mangroves and the historical significance of the whale tooth to the Fijian culture; a report on the coconut tree; and a biography of Lily, a five year old Fijian girl.
By day two, participants were able to insert photographs and publish their vernacular texts. The rest of the day was devoted to translating and publishing an English version of the same text for classroom instruction. Participants were thrilled to receive their certificates of accomplishment as well as a selection of teacher professional development resources kindly donated by the Primary English Teachers Association of Australian (PETAA) and transported to FIJI courtesy of Air NZ.
Titilia Koula & Epeli Vatu proudly showing resources donated by PETAA.
Naomi Tuilekutu proudly displays her book written in Fijian and English.