Kātaki ē mamá moe hopohopokia : perceptions and experiences of Tongan male learners in higher education in Aotearoa New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education at Massey University, Albany Campus, New Zealand
Tongans are known as one of the greatest seafaring people, constantly and fearlessly
venturing beyond the sunrise in search of new lands and new grounds to conquer and
seeking better opportunities away from home. However, settlement and the adjustment
and transition into a new life in the new destinations invariably come with sets of
unfamiliar challenges and obstacles that demand often rather painful and difficult
Such is the story of the Tongan Aotearoa diaspora. Tongan migrants in Aotearoa New
Zealand (A/NZ) have faced quite stringent challenges resulting in their having been
largely distracted and diverted from their “New Zealand-the promised-land” dream.
The Tongan experience in, and encounters with, the New Zealand education system is
a standout example of the most serious of these challenges as evidenced predominantly
by the lack of numeracy and literacy skills. As direct result of this gap Tongans along
with, and similar to, their fellow Pasifika students are quite conspicuous amongst those
seen as failures in the education system in A/NZ.
Literature shows a widening gap between policies and practises and the need to
address the issue urgently. Responding to concerns about these increasing barriers, this
study specifically provides ethnic gender specificity by exploring the experiences of
Tongan males at higher education in A/NZ.
In my research, and as presented in this thesis, I use the Tongan methodologies of
talanoa, tālanga, and tālave with the Kakala framework to provide comfortable space and
time where the experiences, perceptions, and voices of Tongan male learners at higher
education were unravelled. Makatūkia and makatuʻu were identified and discussed, and
various overarching institutions such as kāinga, lotu, self and cosmos were identified to
play dual roles in the failures and successes of Tongan male learners.
This research also develops and presents a new conceptual framework; Kalia-Langimālie
which is grounded on the theoretical orientations of tā-vā kāinga, fashioned by the
understanding that vā is mutual, interpersonal, and reciprocal with tā to represent
movements, beat, and rhythms. The result of this undertaking empirically concurs that
when policies and practises are grounded within, and built on, meaningful values that
understand Tongans’ tā-vā through their worlds of self, kāinga, lotu and cosmos, success