Vaka Pasifiki Education Conference provides an opportunity for the sharing of ideas, presentation of research and best practice, and discussion of issues relevant to teacher education, educational policy and practice, and teaching and learning in Oceania. The Vaka Psifiki Education Conference 2021 marked 20 years of the Re-thinking Pacific Education by Pacific Peoples for Pacific Peoples (RPEI/RPEIPP), an innovative development strategy which was initiated in 2001 by key Pacific educators (Konai Helu Thaman, ‘Ana Taufe’ulungaki, Tili Afamasaga, John Niroa, Hilda Heine, Kabini Sanga, Kelly Kalolo, Unaisi Nabobo-Baba, Teweiariki Teaero, Ina Herman, Priscilla Puamau, Emery Wenty, and a number of other Pacific educators) and supported with an NZAID grant.
The Vaka Pasifiki Education Conference (VPEC) was first devised from a symposium in December 2011 at The University of the South Pacific’s Laucala Campus, Suva, Fiji. This one-day symposium was organized as one of the activities marking “a decade of re-thinking Pacific education” through the Re-thinking Pacific Education Initiative for and by Pacific Peoples (RPEIPP). Specifically, the symposium was aimed at contributing towards nurturing a new generation of indigenous Pacific leader-scholars. It was a seed-sewing event, with the hope that over the next decade, a new generation of scholars would learn and mature as Pacific leader-scholars.
In this meeting the issue of Pacific scholars and academic publications was discussed. It was obvious that there was a need for a regular academic gathering to happen where academic papers could be presented and published. IoE came away from the first symposium with renewed determination to make VPEC a regular event and to create publication opportunities for its participants.
Vaka Pasifiki has both literal and richly metaphorical meanings. In a number of Pacific languages vaka or waka is literally understood as a means of transport, and most commonly refers to ocean-going sail boats and canoes. Pasifiki is a transliteration of the English word Pacific in a distinctly Pacific form, and refers collectively to the island dwelling Oceanic peoples.
Metaphorically, Vaka Pasifiki captures the essence of a vessel for, and of, our Pacific people. Vaka Pasifiki is inclusive of the many and diverse cultures of those who carry an educational vision forward; the means by which they carry it and are carried by it; and the reason it is done.
The destination of Vaka Pasifiki is, as yet, uncharted. It is dependent on the clarity of the collective visioning of Pasifiki people, who alone can define and navigate to a destination which is sustainable, and in which Pasifiki flourish, are assured, and can forge new Oceanic paradigms.
Vaka Pasifiki must be open, and able to see and utilise the navigational wisdoms of its people. It must “ride low, close to Oceania: so that we feel the currents”, and strive to be ever responsive to the hopes and aspirations of Pacific peoples, serving them with humility, respect and courage.
Vaka Pasifiki, therefore, is an educational movement, supported by “ordinary people with extra-ordinary dreams!” It is the initial name for the emerging Indigenous Pacific Research School of Thought. We invite you to journey with us. (With thanks to Johansson-Fua, 2009)