Tommy Kapai: This school turns tragedy to triumph

By Tommy Kapai

Marahera Kakau is on a mission to make a difference and for the last three years she has worked tirelessly without a day off and without pay to make that happen.

Marahera, or "Miss" as she is affectionately known to her students, runs what I would call a partnership-partnership school, except in her case the partner who should be helping her (Ministry of Education) hasn't shown up.

Thankfully for Miss and her right-hand man Matua Pat, help in the form of Child, Youth and Family (CYF) has stepped up as almost pseudo partners and for an organisation that gets more bad press than a Peter Dunne leak (including the other leak by the widdling Warrior) CYF deserve the thumbs up for their partnership work with Miss.

To sit and listen to tragedies being turned into triumphs by Miss as 40 of us did last week up on the slopes of Maungatawa was both moving and motivating.

As each of the pupils stood and testified as to why this partnership school worked, their heartfelt stories of the cards life had dealt them - until they met Miss - brought on a deluge of boo juice that could have refloated the Rena.

Just like Rena, these kids have been left stranded by their circumstances and so too has Miss, by the ministry who should be supporting her endeavours.

The partnership school is called Te Aka a Tawhaki and the partnership is between the parents, pupils and people of Tamapahore Marae with a little help from friends like CYF, which up there stands for Cool Young Fellas.

The motto of this school is Kei hopu to ringa ki te aka taiepa, me hopu ke te aka matua; Don't take hold of the free hanging vine, grasp instead the parent vine for it will carry you in your time of need.

There is a growing gap of vine-grasping kids in our education system and the gap is widening for teenagers who cannot connect with teachers in a mainstream learning environment. More and more partnership schools, or whatever you want to call them, such as Te Aka a Tawhaki will be needed and that message came loud and clear from the professional teachers and principals at the Marae, where we got a lesson in Missism.

It was her pupils not her who told us why her style of teaching works and why mainstream schooling does not.

"Miss understands me, she listens to me and she doesn't judge me or my whanau."

These kids were streetwise and could spot a fake at a thousand paces. They knew truth and they understood empathy and they clearly loved their Miss. She is a hard grafted awhi angel that you could only find if you cloned the genes of Mother Teresa, Florence Nightingale and Cheryl West from Outrageous Fortune.

Miss has run this partnership school on sixpence for the last three years. She has begged and borrowed and emptied her own pockets to make a difference in the lives of kids who almost everyone else had given up on.

Just getting these kids to school was a success in my eyes, just as it is for a sporting team where showing up is 90 per cent of the game (unless you have a tri-coloured blue jersey on and a whistle happy ref).

Showing up to a place of learning is a heroic act for these kids as they have been told time and time again they don't fit, they are dumb or as they told us in their words, "everyone else had given up on us except Miss".

Time and time again I hear from low decile learners and their teachers that the ministry is using the wrong language and I heard it again up at Tamapahore Marae from Miss and Matua. But not so CYF.

Tiwha, Dena and their CYF team need to be applauded as an example of what can be achieved when Miss and the ministry get together for the common good of the children who need them most.

No pay, no thanks and no way would Miss give up on these kids - and nor should we.

Tomorrow's teachers of these lost generations of teenagers could well be these kids because they speak the language their students will understand.

For that to happen we need to salute and support the endeavours of Miss and the team at CYF.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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