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‘Early mum’ teacher inspires teen parents to stay on track

Issue: Volume 96, Number 13

Posted: 24 July 2017
Reference #: 1H9deb

Montoya Poihipi, 19, and her son Te Atawhai. Montoya plans to spend this year and next completing the qualifications necessary to gain entry into a nursing degree.

It will always be a hard road having a baby while a teenager, but the 10 students at a school for young parents in Northland are getting support and inspiration from someone who’s walked in their shoes. The unit manager who leads the teaching team was a young mum too.

Kim Peita, manager of Hiwa-i-te-rangi in Kaikohe, says being a young parent should not hold anyone back from moving through their education, getting qualifications and having a career. She says that’s a key lesson she teaches her students.

Kim was 17 when she had her first child, but continued in her education, became qualified as a teacher and recently completed a Master of Indigenous Studies degree.

The 10 mothers are aged between 17 and 23. The centre has brand-new facilities, and a childcare centre  that most of the students’ children will attend is currently being built across the road. Kim says it will make a huge difference to the parents to be able to drop their babies off in a safe, supportive environment and then walk to their classes, but be able to attend to their children if needed during the day.

As well as continuing education in small group teaching, the students are given support to learn life skills and help to access essential services such as immunisation, medical care and community health and law services.

“It shouldn’t be the case, but there is still a stereotype in society about being a teenage parent – mostly negative, as if they are a burden on society and so on. The stereotype is wrong, but it’s still with us.

“The mums encounter this and we talk about it openly. However, we also tell them anything’s possible in their future lives by continuing their education, but it takes sacrifice, commitment and a strong support network, of which we are one part.”

The unit is funded for 30 parents, and more are expected to enrol once the childcare centre opens, which is scheduled for July. All the current students are mothers, but fathers are also welcome to enrol.

Kim says the new buildings have helped a lot in providing a quality educational environment for the students.

“We aim to empower them by supporting them, including offering information about possible careers and by bringing in people from their community to talk about their careers and the journey that has got them there. There is currently a lot of interest in nursing as a career.

“Three out of the 10 plan to study nursing and one midwifery. We also have students who wish to work in mental health, law and hospitality. They all have a strong desire to be able to help their whānau and community,” says Kim.

“Their lives are complex and this is a very low socio-economic area, so the girls already have a lot of pressure in their lives before they become mums.

“Education may not be viewed as a priority in these circumstances, so it is highly important for us to support their return to education so that they and their children can have every opportunity for successful lives.”

The unit’s governing high school is nearby Northland College, which also has newly upgraded facilities.

Its brand-new classroom block heralds a fresh start for the college, which is now housed in a large single building with modern, world-class facilities in place of multiple old buildings that were aged and in poor condition spread over its site.

The head students are impressed. The building has high standards of acoustics, lighting, heating and ventilation, and the latest IT infrastructure to support digital learning.

The flexible gym/hall space has room for a full-size basketball or netball court, two volleyball courts, or four badminton courts. It is designed to be easily enlarged in the future.

Head boy Te Kopa Kopu says the size of the space in the new gym takes his breath away.
“It’s awesome and inspiring!”

Head girl Aroha Lawrence is impressed by the whare area off the side of the gym, which can sleep up to 150 people.

As a student leader, she has been encouraging her peers to stay in school, and says having amazing facilities to learn in will help. “It’s pretty exciting because it’s new. A route through education is the pathway to the future.”

 

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 6:00 am, 24 July 2017

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