Nuhaka education

Tim Warrington of The Wairoa Star talks to Nuhaka woman Ngaire Aben-Tuhiwai about helping local people gain qualifications and education as a vehicle for creating good citizens and better outcomes for families.

Tim Warrington of The Wairoa Star talks to Nuhaka woman Ngaire Aben-Tuhiwai about helping local people gain qualifications and education as a vehicle for creating good citizens and better outcomes for families.

BRIDGING GAPS: From left: Kylie Wesche, Cleveland Raroa and Ngaire Aben-Tuhiwai. The bottom line is to improve employment options and create better outcomes for families. Pictures by Tim Warrington
Tawhaki Henare is loving learning.
Juan Puriri-Lim has pencil poised and ready for action.
Ngaire Aben-Tuhiwai: “You’re never too old to study. Everyone is welcome.”

A NUHAKA woman is fighting to give students who left school without qualifications a second chance.

It has an air of Hollywood, but no scent of fiction.

Ngaire Aben-Tuhiwai has thrown open the doors of the Nuhaka Unity Hall to give students another go at making the grade to secure their high school certificate.

“It doesn’t need to be difficult,” Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai says with a smile.

“A little know-how, a lot of determination and a truck-load of enthusiasm — and things begin to happen, she says.

“Some of these students were so close to graduating, I’m talking only a few compulsory credits, and they didn’t know it.”

One student is only four literacy and 10 numeracy credits away from graduating and yet he has been out of the education system for years.

There are many more just like him, but no one ever explained to them just how close they were to completing their studies.

Some have been disengaged from learning for two or three years and some for much longer.

“This is an opportunity to re-engage, but in a whanau-focused, community-focused way that embraces everybody,” Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai says.

She is bridging gaps in the students’ training and getting them qualified.

“One of our main goals is to help participants achieve the NCEA Level 1-3 minimum education and training, and give them options and choices.

“Choice is everything. Education opens doors.”

But it’s not just about learning. Education is a vehicle for creating good citizens and better outcomes for families.

When Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai returned to Nuhaka from Wellington four years ago, she noticed students who hadn’t graduated and were living locally, many of whom had lost their “waka” — or learning direction.

“Some of these young people had been excluded from school. A few had been excluded from more than one school.

“Then what? The alternative education programme in Wairoa isn’t an option for everybody.

“There’s no transport from Nuhaka. And the simple fact is many of our students can’t afford a daily commute to Wairoa.”

Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai says she recognised there were young people for whom the “normal” system of education wasn’t the right fit.

For whatever reason, the education system didn’t work for them.

“Education isn’t one size fits all,” she says.

Nuhaka parents were considering sending their children away to Hastings or Napier because there was no alternative.

“It was a stark reality to face. If we didn’t help them, who would?”

Students were falling through the cracks and needed help, as did the community.

There was no safety net to catch them and help them get back on the learning ladder.

“I felt a strong sense of responsibility to act,” Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai says.

“These young people, like all our young people, need us now — not tomorrow. There’s an urgency that has long surpassed time.

“We don’t have to send our children away. There is an alternative. We just need to make it a reality,” she says.

“I knew how to bring the New Zealand Correspondence School here to cater for these young people.”

There’s a movie about a person, a field and a little bit of magic.

“Build it and they will come,” one of the characters predicts.

And this is what Ngaire Aben-Tuhiwai did.

She started a school before she even had the pupils. But she knew they would come.And they did.

And while Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai didn’t build the Unity Hall — it has stood at the heart of the Nuhaka community for a hundred years — she has filled it with young minds eager to learn.

Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai established the Te Ahika Nuhaka Youth and Whanau Learning Centre or “Te Ahika”.

It is modelled on a pilot programme — the Ahika Accelerated Learning Centre set up in Lower Hutt, Wellington in 2012 — that was an iwi initiative Taranaki Whanui pushed for in their Treaty accord.

Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai sat on the Ministry of Education side then and was involved in writing the education component of that accord.

She was also involved in supporting the iwi to lead educational initiatives for themselves.

“The iwi know what they need for their people,” Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai says.

The educational model worked well for disengaged young people, or those at risk of disengaging, and was a perfect fit for Nuhaka, she said.

The New Zealand Correspondence School is the provider of the formal compulsory education programme at Te Ahika Nuhaka.

The correspondence school — Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu or “Te Kura” — is New Zealand’s largest school, with around 25,000 students. It offers a wide range of learning programmes, from early childhood level to Year 13, with full-time or part-time study.

Currently Te Ahika Nuhaka’s focus is for high school and above.

Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai is working on achieving NCEA Levels 1-3 and beyond for the Nuhaka students, with an age range 14-29.

She is undaunted by the challenge.

“I understand how things can be done on a shoestring budget,” she says.

“Currently we have no budget. We’re operating without any financial support from anyone, but that hasn’t stopped us. We’re doing it anyway.

“As long as we have a roof over our heads and we have the programme — a free service from the correspondence school — we’ll be fine. The roof leaks and the floor is uneven, but that’s not going to stop us.”

Staff member to support learning

Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai says they have an agreement with the correspondence school to provide Te Ahika Nuhaka with a part-time staff member to support the learning.

“I’ve taught in the past and while I’m involved in the set-up and management here at Nuhaka, teaching isn’t my focus.

“Hopefully my skills and knowledge and networks will help us grow,” she says.

“We want our students to be able to provide for the families they have now or the families they will have in the future.”

Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai met with the Ministry of Education and the correspondence school in November last year and again in January 2017.

She told them the school would open on February 1. The ministry pledged its support but said funding would take time. It has. Lessons began on February 1 without a cent.

“If I had waited for funding we would still be standing here talking,” Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai says.

Support from the local community was essential to the success of Te Ahika Nuhaka Youth and Whanau Learning Centre.

Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai went looking for student leaders who had connections to the community and to the young people in the area.

Two young Nuhaka residents put their hands up. Cleveland Raroa and Kylie Wesche — both born and bred in Nuhaka.

“I approached Kylie and Cleveland and explained I wanted to set up a learning centre. They have connections to the young people because they are strongly connected to Nuhaka.”

She knew Cleveland from rugby and recognised his natural leadership abilities on and off the field.

“Kylie is a familiar face around the township — she is well-respected and works at the famous Nuhaka fish and chip shop.

“I brought them in at a management level so they could see first-hand how to interact with government officials — people like the regional education director.”

Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai says her role is not about power or position — it’s about empowering others, like these youth leaders.

Cleveland has embraced the learning opportunity as well as his involvement with management.

“Over the last month, our kaupapa of Te Ahika has been so awesome — working with our rangatahi to better themselves for the future and getting themselves out there in the world,” he says.

He says it has been exciting working with other students and progressing through their unit standards.

“We’re learning more about our Maoritanga and filling our kete matauranga with knowledge.”

The idea of unity is an important one for Cleveland.

“No matter who someone is, or where they come from, everyone is welcome at the Unity Hall,” he says.

“Te Ahika stands for the embers of our life burning, welcoming everyone to our kaupapa with open arms and aroha.”

Kylie was keen to be involved with a learning centre for Nuhaka to help educate her people, her rangatahi.

“Some of our children in the community cannot afford to drive into Wairoa to study, and some have been excluded from schools.

“So this is why we opened up our learning centre ‘Te Ahika’. We are currently learning tikanga, kawa, pepeha and the history of our beautiful little community.”

Core student body

In addition to Cleveland and Kylie, there is a core student body of approximately 13. And counting.

There are also part-time and casual students who come when they can.

“We have uncovered a wealth of ambition,” Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai says.

“We have students who want to be chefs, fashion designers, engineers — you name it.

“We’re also helping students with basic needs like getting licences. You can’t get a job if you don’t have a photo ID.”

“Everything we do is future-focused to achieve the best possible outcome for our students.

“The students are not only learning, they are giving back to the community.”

On Fridays they perform community service. They mow lawns, pull weeds, plant fruit trees and help out at the local flats for the elderly. They volunteered at Te Matatini.

“Te Ahika Nuhaka is not just about books and passing exams,” Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai says.

“It’s about life skills. It’s about giving our young people the right start in life to be valuable members of the community.

“We are immersing the students in Maori language and culture to strengthen their identities, draw families closer and help secure a positive future.

“Basically we want better outcomes for our families. There’s so much potential and talent in this little hall.”

A NUHAKA woman is fighting to give students who left school without qualifications a second chance.

It has an air of Hollywood, but no scent of fiction.

Ngaire Aben-Tuhiwai has thrown open the doors of the Nuhaka Unity Hall to give students another go at making the grade to secure their high school certificate.

“It doesn’t need to be difficult,” Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai says with a smile.

“A little know-how, a lot of determination and a truck-load of enthusiasm — and things begin to happen, she says.

“Some of these students were so close to graduating, I’m talking only a few compulsory credits, and they didn’t know it.”

One student is only four literacy and 10 numeracy credits away from graduating and yet he has been out of the education system for years.

There are many more just like him, but no one ever explained to them just how close they were to completing their studies.

Some have been disengaged from learning for two or three years and some for much longer.

“This is an opportunity to re-engage, but in a whanau-focused, community-focused way that embraces everybody,” Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai says.

She is bridging gaps in the students’ training and getting them qualified.

“One of our main goals is to help participants achieve the NCEA Level 1-3 minimum education and training, and give them options and choices.

“Choice is everything. Education opens doors.”

But it’s not just about learning. Education is a vehicle for creating good citizens and better outcomes for families.

When Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai returned to Nuhaka from Wellington four years ago, she noticed students who hadn’t graduated and were living locally, many of whom had lost their “waka” — or learning direction.

“Some of these young people had been excluded from school. A few had been excluded from more than one school.

“Then what? The alternative education programme in Wairoa isn’t an option for everybody.

“There’s no transport from Nuhaka. And the simple fact is many of our students can’t afford a daily commute to Wairoa.”

Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai says she recognised there were young people for whom the “normal” system of education wasn’t the right fit.

For whatever reason, the education system didn’t work for them.

“Education isn’t one size fits all,” she says.

Nuhaka parents were considering sending their children away to Hastings or Napier because there was no alternative.

“It was a stark reality to face. If we didn’t help them, who would?”

Students were falling through the cracks and needed help, as did the community.

There was no safety net to catch them and help them get back on the learning ladder.

“I felt a strong sense of responsibility to act,” Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai says.

“These young people, like all our young people, need us now — not tomorrow. There’s an urgency that has long surpassed time.

“We don’t have to send our children away. There is an alternative. We just need to make it a reality,” she says.

“I knew how to bring the New Zealand Correspondence School here to cater for these young people.”

There’s a movie about a person, a field and a little bit of magic.

“Build it and they will come,” one of the characters predicts.

And this is what Ngaire Aben-Tuhiwai did.

She started a school before she even had the pupils. But she knew they would come.And they did.

And while Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai didn’t build the Unity Hall — it has stood at the heart of the Nuhaka community for a hundred years — she has filled it with young minds eager to learn.

Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai established the Te Ahika Nuhaka Youth and Whanau Learning Centre or “Te Ahika”.

It is modelled on a pilot programme — the Ahika Accelerated Learning Centre set up in Lower Hutt, Wellington in 2012 — that was an iwi initiative Taranaki Whanui pushed for in their Treaty accord.

Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai sat on the Ministry of Education side then and was involved in writing the education component of that accord.

She was also involved in supporting the iwi to lead educational initiatives for themselves.

“The iwi know what they need for their people,” Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai says.

The educational model worked well for disengaged young people, or those at risk of disengaging, and was a perfect fit for Nuhaka, she said.

The New Zealand Correspondence School is the provider of the formal compulsory education programme at Te Ahika Nuhaka.

The correspondence school — Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu or “Te Kura” — is New Zealand’s largest school, with around 25,000 students. It offers a wide range of learning programmes, from early childhood level to Year 13, with full-time or part-time study.

Currently Te Ahika Nuhaka’s focus is for high school and above.

Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai is working on achieving NCEA Levels 1-3 and beyond for the Nuhaka students, with an age range 14-29.

She is undaunted by the challenge.

“I understand how things can be done on a shoestring budget,” she says.

“Currently we have no budget. We’re operating without any financial support from anyone, but that hasn’t stopped us. We’re doing it anyway.

“As long as we have a roof over our heads and we have the programme — a free service from the correspondence school — we’ll be fine. The roof leaks and the floor is uneven, but that’s not going to stop us.”

Staff member to support learning

Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai says they have an agreement with the correspondence school to provide Te Ahika Nuhaka with a part-time staff member to support the learning.

“I’ve taught in the past and while I’m involved in the set-up and management here at Nuhaka, teaching isn’t my focus.

“Hopefully my skills and knowledge and networks will help us grow,” she says.

“We want our students to be able to provide for the families they have now or the families they will have in the future.”

Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai met with the Ministry of Education and the correspondence school in November last year and again in January 2017.

She told them the school would open on February 1. The ministry pledged its support but said funding would take time. It has. Lessons began on February 1 without a cent.

“If I had waited for funding we would still be standing here talking,” Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai says.

Support from the local community was essential to the success of Te Ahika Nuhaka Youth and Whanau Learning Centre.

Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai went looking for student leaders who had connections to the community and to the young people in the area.

Two young Nuhaka residents put their hands up. Cleveland Raroa and Kylie Wesche — both born and bred in Nuhaka.

“I approached Kylie and Cleveland and explained I wanted to set up a learning centre. They have connections to the young people because they are strongly connected to Nuhaka.”

She knew Cleveland from rugby and recognised his natural leadership abilities on and off the field.

“Kylie is a familiar face around the township — she is well-respected and works at the famous Nuhaka fish and chip shop.

“I brought them in at a management level so they could see first-hand how to interact with government officials — people like the regional education director.”

Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai says her role is not about power or position — it’s about empowering others, like these youth leaders.

Cleveland has embraced the learning opportunity as well as his involvement with management.

“Over the last month, our kaupapa of Te Ahika has been so awesome — working with our rangatahi to better themselves for the future and getting themselves out there in the world,” he says.

He says it has been exciting working with other students and progressing through their unit standards.

“We’re learning more about our Maoritanga and filling our kete matauranga with knowledge.”

The idea of unity is an important one for Cleveland.

“No matter who someone is, or where they come from, everyone is welcome at the Unity Hall,” he says.

“Te Ahika stands for the embers of our life burning, welcoming everyone to our kaupapa with open arms and aroha.”

Kylie was keen to be involved with a learning centre for Nuhaka to help educate her people, her rangatahi.

“Some of our children in the community cannot afford to drive into Wairoa to study, and some have been excluded from schools.

“So this is why we opened up our learning centre ‘Te Ahika’. We are currently learning tikanga, kawa, pepeha and the history of our beautiful little community.”

Core student body

In addition to Cleveland and Kylie, there is a core student body of approximately 13. And counting.

There are also part-time and casual students who come when they can.

“We have uncovered a wealth of ambition,” Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai says.

“We have students who want to be chefs, fashion designers, engineers — you name it.

“We’re also helping students with basic needs like getting licences. You can’t get a job if you don’t have a photo ID.”

“Everything we do is future-focused to achieve the best possible outcome for our students.

“The students are not only learning, they are giving back to the community.”

On Fridays they perform community service. They mow lawns, pull weeds, plant fruit trees and help out at the local flats for the elderly. They volunteered at Te Matatini.

“Te Ahika Nuhaka is not just about books and passing exams,” Mrs Aben-Tuhiwai says.

“It’s about life skills. It’s about giving our young people the right start in life to be valuable members of the community.

“We are immersing the students in Maori language and culture to strengthen their identities, draw families closer and help secure a positive future.

“Basically we want better outcomes for our families. There’s so much potential and talent in this little hall.”

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Nel Boswell - 6 months ago
Kia ora Ngaire, He mihi aroha ki a koe, tino pai to mahi with our young and older students and their learning, whether it be educational or life skills. Great to see how you have enlisted Kylie and Cleveland for they will be able to awhi other would-be learners. Who would've thought of this idea and conducting it in the Unity Hall - just one of the iconic buildings in Nuhaka. I thoroughly endorse your concept of Te Ahika, Kia kaha!

Frances Legge nee Lovegrove - 6 months ago
I was born in Wairoa in 1951, and spent the first six years of my life at Nuhaka where Dad (Len Lovegrove) was Postmaster until he was promoted to Te Kauwhata in 1957. I remember the Unity Hall, but mostly I remember the tight-knit community of the village. Everyone was loved and looked after. Nurturing young and old was an important part of life, and my heart strings are warmed by this wonderful woman. God bless her endeavours.

Mere Bennison - 6 months ago
What a fantastic initiative Ngairie, Kylie and Clevelend. You guys are helping to make a positive difference in the lives of some of the rangatahi at Nuhaka. All the very best to you all and the students too.

Casey - 6 months ago
This is just amazing! What an awesome initiative, how wonderful to have this vision - helping youth to help themselves! Yes there is a whole world out there ready and waiting, and yes some need support and mentoring to realise their potential. I can't wait to hear more about this and wish you all the best.

Janet Teepa - 6 months ago
So much loved you wahine toa. I wish we had someone like you back in my days to steer our waka. It's such a blessing too see you work with our tamariki and give them a future. We need people like you who care. I was in a similar situation too with my people in the Bay of Plenty - now 40 percent of those tamariki are working, they have a much better future and now they are teaching their tamariki. Thank you for sharing your story.

April Kaaho - 6 months ago
What an inspiration and awesome achievement in creating a learning environment for rangatahi and older. I would love to bring my son for a look. Is it possible to send me details please?

PJ Coombs - 6 months ago
Tau ke e Hine. He whakaaro rangatira tenei. Mauriora.

Teia Pomana-Luke - 6 months ago
You are a God-send. What a way to give back and to preserve your hau kainga, nga mihinui ki a koe e home me ou kaiawhina

Te Rina - 6 months ago
I met some of these young men and Ngaire at a recent tangi for my uncle - the awhi, manaakitanga and energy they brought with them on to Kahungunu Marae was an immeasurable help, and never once were they anything other than friendly, respectful and supportive. Clever rangatahi guided by a grounded and highly-skilled woman, ready to learn and help whanau.
Awesome roopu - beautiful to see young people want to be active and contributing members for their tight-knit Nuhaka whanau. Too many leave, and forget what it's like at home. #KaMauTeWehi

Ngaire Kingi - 6 months ago
Thank you for shining your love, hope and inspiration on others Ngaire. Thank you for walking the walk and talking the talk to nurture and guide the future. "He mahi rangatira." Nga mihi timo aroha tatou katoa.

Rose Maukau - 6 months ago
Well done, anything good comes my way I will certainly give generously. Arohanui Rose

Kylie and Cleveland - 6 months ago
Tena koutou katoa. Thank you all for your encouragement and support in person, through the newspapers and via facebook. We are humbled and excited by the positive and widespread response to our story. This is really great for our students and families.

Ann Kinraid - 6 months ago
I think this is such a great scheme, being fitted to the people who need it and want it by people who know how to give them the skills that will give them a base to work on. I would like to support it in some way, so perhaps a Friends of Nuhaka with Aroha could be started. I guess a newsletter from students, perhaps over Facebook, could be used. A special bank a/c for donations would be good, and eventually a trust drawn up with a legal and practical framework.
Some money would be good for extras that good, reliable Correspondence School can't manage (they helped my family with education).
Tell us where we can send money and then some koha will start and hopefully the awhi will build for these young people and their mentors. Let there be lots more like this, then we will be hearing lots of positive, good stories to cheer our sad hearts in present-day unlovely New Zealand.

Blanche Mclean - 6 months ago
What a wonderful woman you are Ngaire, giving so much back to the local community. I was born in Wairoa in 1957, went to Nuhaka Primary School and spent my childhood in Morere with family (Gordon Tait), so when I heard your story on the National radio I was really moved by your work. I still have family in Wairoa so it's heartwarming to hear stories like this.

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