Dr Patisepa Vaitimu Tuafuti passed away last week.
Not only was she a teacher trainer, she was also a mother, grandmother, tireless community person and a dear friend.
I first met Pati in January 1995, when I undertook my first paper for the National diploma of Education. At that time Pati was Pasifika Education Advisor and worked in the Advisory service at Kohia Teachers Centre. She worked closely with Samoan teachers in the Auckland Region to establish the ‘Ulimasao Bilingual Education Association Inc.
We became firm friends.
Over the years I learnt more about Pati and we connected through several links. Such as connections with our families in Samoa. Historically our Gafa crosses paths in the villages of Afega and Manono in Samoa.
She was one of the few people who did not hesitate to tell me if I she thought I was neglecting my learning. Through Pati’s gentle encouragement I completed my National Diploma of TESSOL whilst raising a young family and working full time. She took me under her wings and encouraged me to further my learning both academically, service to community work, and to growing my Samoan language and culture.
She helped steer me on the path of first language maintenance. When I first knew her my Samoan had become rusty through lack of use. However she encouraged me to present in Samoan and to run teacher workshops in Samoan and to speak at community events in Samoan. My oral Samoan is now very strong.
I was going through my photos of Pati and sure enough it was a real challenge to locate her as often she would hover behind. She would always pushing others to the front. That was her way. Always the mentor behind us. Push is not a strong enough word for Pati. Somehow or other I would always say yes to anything she asked of me. She had a gentle way of persuasion.
Together we visited Samoa in 2000 for the Fagasa annual conference and then visited her sister and family in Savaii and her brother and family in Afega.
We attended the CLESOL conference in Wellington in 2002.
In 2003, we co-presented at the LED conference in Hamilton.
Together we went and presented in Hawaii at the annual Fagasa conference in 2004.
We attended the CLESOL conference in Christchurch in 2004 where she was invited to be a plenary speaker and it was where she shared the earlier research of her PHD.
We were both on the Auckland CLESOL Conference Steering committee in 2000.
We were on the steering committee for both Ulimasao’s conferences. The one held in Auckland in 2002 and the second conference in 2005, one where 200 educators visited Samoa. Both conferences stressed the importance of Bilingualism but not at the expense of first language maintenance.
Over the years we have watched our children grow up. She would often attend my children’s celebrations and I would often be at hers. Over the past few years, celebrations centred around her grandchildren of whom she was immensely proud.
In 2016, Pati graduated with her Doctorate of Philosophy in Education. Her thesis was titled ‘Pululima Faifai Pea.‘ Her expertise and educational experiences were in the areas of Language Acquisition, Bilingual Education/Bilingualism, Critical Theory & Critical Literacies, Empowerment Education for Minorities and Raising Achievement for Pacific children within the NZ educational system. Her research on bilingualism, empowerment, critical pedagogy and power relation was influenced strongly by the work of Jim Cummins and Stephen May.
‘E i loa le Samoa moni i lana tu ma lana tautala.’
You can tell a true Samoan by behaviour and speech.
Pati was hugely influenced in fa’asamoa knowledge and epistemologies by experts such as Professor Aiono Fanaafi Le Tagaloa and Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese and many other Samoan elders. She followed their examples of service to the community. She would say to me that alongside research, one must always be an active member of the community being researched.
Pati, manuia lou malaga ma e fetaui i le Pule muamua i le lagi.
Alofaaatu le uso pele.
Funeral details for Patisepa Tuafuti