24 November 2022 at 10:30 am

Indigenous Malyasian students learn about Te Ao Māori

Three indigenous students, the first recipients of Whakatipu Scholarships in Malaysia, recently completed an online course with Mission New Zealand as part of their award.

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L to r: 2022 Whakatipu Scholarship recipients Diana Bah Said, Norazah Din and Scholastica Philip

Scholastica Philip, who is of Kadazan descent, together with Diana Bah Said and Norazah Din, both of Semai ethnicity, have been studying the Te Ao Māori and Sustainability course on the Mission New Zealand online platform. 

All three say they gained a great deal from the short course, which included an introduction to biculturalism, and the five stages of the design thinking process.  

“Biculturalism in Aotearoa New Zealand is fascinating,” Norazah said. “We learned about Māori settling in New Zealand, and I really want to experience their culture and daily life if I have the chance in the future.” 

Scholastica noticed some common themes around sustainability in Te Ao Māori, and the importance of nature and food in her Kadazan culture, which is from East Malaysia. 

“We take care of nature as we take care of humans - we need to take care of all living things. 

“There is an ancient story for Kadazan people about Huminodun, a very beautiful woman who sacrificed herself to create food and bring rain to stop the cursed drought season for her people. This story is about how closely we are connected with nature. 

“We learned on the course that Māori and non-Māori are working together in New Zealand to achieve a sustainable ecological system – I love the concept,” Scholastica said. 

Norazah and Diana also noted how important trees and rivers are in their distinctive Semai culture, which is based in North Malaysia.   

“We have a very strong connection with nature - as much as we respect each other,” Diana said. 

Norazah with a friend at the Festival of Langauge

Scholastica and Diana at university in Kuala Lumpur

Norazah and Diana are in their second year of study at Universiti Malaya, and Scholastica is in her third year.  

Scholastica has also completed an introductory course in te Reo Māori, and you can hear her pepeha here.

Ben Burrowes, Regional Director Asia for Education New Zealand Manapou ki te Ao (ENZ) says the Whakatipu Scholarships are funded by ENZ and Universiti Malaya. 

“We are aiming to empower talented young indigenous students, support them with learning and exchange opportunities, and encourage knowledge sharing. 

Scholastica at the Sabah Fiesta with a group of Thai buddies

“This is the first year of the scholarship, and it’s great to see these students making the most of this opportunity.” 

Read more about the Whakatipu Scholarships on the ENZ website here. 

Read more about Mission New Zealand on ENZ’s New Products and Services website here 


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