A haka encore at a school in Sao Paulo

World Skills New Zealand

The environment

The high level of security here is perplexing. Everywhere I go my security pass is checked and if I cannot prove I have accreditation to enter an area the guards refuse me entry until I can prove I have access to areas like the Press briefings, restaurant and competitor areas. In fact, I have had a few heated discussions with security guards. They have an amazing way of blanking a person out and standing firm. Language difficulties contribute to this. I do not know if the increased emphasis on security is because Worldskills International has just accepted Israel and Palestine into their membership. But it sure is strange to be in a country where razor wire runs along the top of most walls, armed guards/police patrol everywhere (even looking out from pill boxes) and armed personnel are everywhere.

Kiwi team gets an encore during a visit to EE Joaquim Luiz de Brito School

Yesterday morning, the NZ team visited EE Joaquim de Brito public school as part of the One School, One Country programme*. We travelled by bus, through the back streets of Sao Paulo. As we travelled, I could hear the team members saying, “we’re so lucky we live in New Zealand.”

We shared the visit with the team from Israel.

The team performed the haka to roaring applause. The students received the Tool Blacks, who were not much older than the senior students at the school, very enthusiastically. So much so that when it came to question time, one of the students asked if the team could, “do that dance again?” The rest of the students supported the request with loud cheering. The team then took up their positions and led by Luke Tahurangi, they repeated the haka. They were totally pumped.

On our way to the school the poverty was impossible to miss. The streets were so narrow the bus had to have five goes to get it around one. The narrow streets made it impossible to park outside the school so we had to walk up hill about half a kilometre to get there. The teachers and students were waiting as we arrived a little bit late. However, this did not appear to dampen the warmth of the school’s welcome.

The principal guided the team into what looked like an assembly hall except it was open along one wall. The floor was concrete. The concert opened with everyone singing each other’s national anthems. A power point projection gave us the words. The New Zealand anthem, however, was audio only. Luckily, we all knew it (both Maori and English versions).

The most amazing cultural demonstration followed. It started with a song by a young student whose voice was so pure it did not matter that we did not understand the words. The next thing was enough to blow the mind of any kiwi. Young boys had drawn what looked like Maori tattoos on their faces and they performed a unique version of the haka. These lads had the words and the actions but they delivered it without the vigour we, in New Zealand, expect. That surprised me but then I realised that they probably did not understand the cultural nuances behind the haka and that it was, in fact, a war chant.

Later, I overheard one of the team members say, that at first she had thought “they were taking the piss” but then realised this was an amazing mark of respect.

Later, maintenance engineering competitor, Nick Bastiansen and Joinery competitor, Michael Good said it was an experience they will never forget and the best “memory moment of their lives.”


*‘One School One Country’ is a programme set up to encourage cultural exchange between countries. Shizouka, Japan set the programme up when they hosted the Worldskills competition in 2007. Since then every team has visited a school in the host country, exchanged gifts and cultural performances.