Remembering Malifa School in Samoa

To celebrate le vaiaso o le gagana Sämoa (Samoan language week) I have decided to draw attention to a small handbook which was gifted to the museum in 1954.

Malifa handbook; FE010588; Te Papa

Malifa handbook; FE010588; Te Papa

The front cover of this handbook indicates that it was presented to Mr and Mrs D A J Rutherford in 1936. The Rutherfords had arrived in Sämoa in 1919 when Mr Rutherford or Latafoti, as he was also known, was appointed superintendent of schools. Previously he had been headmaster of Highcliff School near Dunedin, before taking up his position as headmaster of Leififi School, the first government school in Sämoa established for local European children and children of expatriates.

Malifa was the second government school established during the German period in Sämoa, and was started by church minister Faletoese in 1908. It was intended for Samoan children. In 1909 a boarding school for the sons of matai (chiefs) was added to the Malifa compound. It was the first school to organise a kilikiti (cricket) team in 1921. During Latafoti’s time, a number of Grade 2 schools was set up. However student numbers in classes continued to rise due to increasing interest in education.

Malifa handbook; FE010588; Te Papa

Malifa handbook; FE010588; Te Papa

The handbook has hand-drawn images on the front cover and seven pages of handwritten text inside. It describes a series of small models of household utensils and furniture indexed from A to V that was presented to the Rutherfords. Some of the items included; ‘au (tattooing instrument), aufana (bow and arrow), falalili’i (mat), pate (cricket bat) and to’i (stone adze).

This handbook was presented to Mr and Mrs Rutherford upon their leaving Sämoa in 1936. Written by a student, this object is a good example of how New Zealand policies in the early 1900s influenced Sämoa’s educational system.

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