The doors are never closed at Conrad Waitoa's home. They can't be, really, as he has 122 children to deal with.

"Only two of them are actually mine, the other 120 are part of Inspire In Education Ltd, which I founded in March 2017. My wife and I often spend our weekends picking up, dropping off, having meetings or baking with a number of these boys," he says. "And we wouldn't have it any other way."

Waitoa is Ngati Porou, Ngati Kahungunu, Ngai Tahu, and his goal for Inspire In Education (IIE) is to "provide a range of professional learning and development services to assist schools with Maori cultural competence standards and Maori curriculum design".

The programme is aimed at primary and intermediate Maori boys aged 10 yrs to 15 yrs.

Advertisement

"This demographic has been under achieving for more than 10 years. It's a national problem and nothing looked like it was going to change for the next 10 years so I decided to do something about it", Waitoa says.

"At the time, March 2017, I was in a corporate job in a good position, earning a nice wage when I told my employer and mentor what I wanted to do. He was really supportive. I phoned one of the intermediate schools and the deputy principal loved my ideas.
"I wasn't the best achiever at school and I wanted to re-energise these students."

The first thing he had to do was form a programme to educate the teachers about what these boys have to deal with before they get to school.

Waitoa sees 120 boys a week from six schools ranging from Napier to Bridge Pa. He facilitates programmes with primary schools and Intermediates and ideally would like to work with high schools.

"We help with the transition into high school, helping the boys to set goals and finish the year on a good note. Many of them don't have support from family.

"Many of these kids are gifted but they struggle with numeracy and literacy. We often get mentors in and speakers from the trades industry, sales, Navy, Army, police, along with young men from gang families that have achieved in education and sport, to inspire the students.

"It's important that they understand there are pathways to education no matter where you come from."

Teachers recommend students who they believe will benefit from the programme. Some might be boys they think have leadership qualities, some are not engaged in lessons, some are truants.

Advertisement

"It's my job to get them engaged. I love it when I see these boys realise that they can achieve if they put their minds to it."

Waitoa says we use Maori contexts in our sessions Tikanga Maori - Karakia, mihi, Whakatauki, Tauparapara, waiata, stories, whakapapa through to managing money, banking, investing and art.

"I bring in art if I have a feeling the students are a bit edgy. Art is fantastic for them. They draw and then we get an art teacher to look at their work. There are always lots of sharp edges and hands - some dark and I don't mean in colour. If I see that, I always ask if they need some help."

Waitoa says he loves what he does and watching these boys grow is really special. We are just waiting for a bit of luck with funding, which will ensure the program continues into 2020.

Schools can contact Conrad at conrad@inspireineducation.co.nz