Afamasaga Vaafusuaga Telesia McDonald Alipia (daughter of the late Vito and Sofia, catechists in Samoa) has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) in the New Year Honours, for her distinguished contribution to Pacific early childhood education in New Zealand.
Mrs Alipia has had a long involvement with Pacific early childhood education in New Zealand, since 1991. She was New Zealand’s national coordinator for the Home Interaction Programme for Parents and Youngsters (HIPPY) after studying the programme at Hebrew University, Israel. There are now more than 40 HIPPY centres operating nationwide. She was then principal writer of the Pacific Islands Diploma of Early Childhood Education (PIECA). In 1994, she was appointed head of centre at the Auckland College of Education, leading the delivery of the PIECA Diploma, in partnership with other tertiary institutions across New Zealand.
In 2004, she became director of the Pacific Centre at the Faculty of Education, delivering the Diploma of Teaching with a Pacific specialisation pathway to the Bachelor of Teaching at the University of Auckland. From 1993 to 1996, she was an advisory group member in the development of Te Whariki Early Childhood national curriculum, as well as the Samoan Language Taiala curriculum.
From 1992 to 2000, she held an advisory and consultancy role with the Ministry of Education about Pacific educational outcomes. She is now manager for the Rosebank early childhood centre in Avondale. Mrs Alipia was previously national director of preschool education in Samoa, and a teacher trainer for early childhood education in the Pacific Islands.
On a personal note, Mrs Alipia had, and is still, suffering severe painful rheumatoid arthritis. This has been the case for more than 30 years, and was the case when she was studying for her degrees, and developing curriculums. Nevertheless, it did not hinder her determination or dampen her spirit and drive to lift the standard of Pacific early childhood education to the benchmark of New Zealand early childhood education, enjoyed by the children of New Zealand.
Her passion was to empower Pasefika adults and children with knowledge, so they are not left behind in education.