Tufulasi Taleni is part of A Better Start’s Successful Learning team. Here he talks about his wish for this year, the best piece of advice his father gave him, and the best book he has read recently. 

Can you tell us a little about your current A Better Start project?
In my current PHD study, I am looking at the impact of effective leadership in making a better start for Pasifika learners’ learning, health and wellbeing.

Why is this research important?
Current research and literature confirm that poor education contributes to poor health, low paid jobs, unemployment, poverty – these factors have sadly and negatively impacted on the lives of Pasifika people. This motivates me to look at ways to make sure Pasifika children make a better start in their learning, health and wellbeing and carry on throughout their educational journey. Effective leadership has a huge part to play in making sure educators, families, community/churches and government agencies contribute successfully in making a better start to Pasifika children’s learning, health and wellbeing.

What excites you about this project?
In the past, I worked in a role as Senior Pasifika education adviser for 16 years – a role that gave me an opportunity to provide professional development programmes and initiatives to support school leaders, teachers, boards of trustees and also families and community to lift the engagement and achievement of Pasifika students. During that time, I developed a Pasifika Education Initiative known as the ‘Samoa-based Malaga’ (Samoa Trip). This initiative gave teachers and leaders an opportunity to visit Samoa and stay in the village for 8 days to experience the Samoan culture. This opportunity gave immense cultural experiences for school teachers and leaders to be able to work with Pasifika students in schools in Aotearoa. All of that leads me to this exciting part of my PhD journey – to continue to conduct research that focuses on Pasifika education achievement.

The best piece of advice you have ever received?
My father said this to me as I grew up in the village: “To become an effective leader, you must be a servant first, learn as much as you can while becoming a leader in the future – learn to love, learn to respect, learn to persevere, learn to serve with humility. Never forget where you belong and always look after your name”.

A great book you have read recently?
Recently, I revisited the great book by Nelson Mandela, Long Walk To Freedom. This is to provide some inspiration for my research study on leadership.

The people (alive or not) you would love to meet?
President Nelson Mandela, an inspirational leader of all time. And, my own father who was my greatest mentor – my spiritual and cultural leader.

A Better Start National Science Challenge has around 150 researchers working to find practical, evidence-based solutions to improve the lives of our tamariki in the areas of healthy weight, mental health and resilience, and successful learning. Learn more about some of our researchers here:

Meet the Researcher – Professor Rachael Taylor

Meet the Researcher – Tania Cargo

Meet the Researcher – Dr Sarah Maessen