When Tone Kolose looks into the eyes of some of his students, he can see himself. "I've lived through it: the poverty, no food at home."

Now he's trying to ensure those children forge a better life - as he has.

Kolose is principal of Manurewa South School in Auckland. The school has 300 pupils, from Year 1 to 6. Its decile one rating illustrates the poor backgrounds many come from.

Kolose is normally at his desk by 7.30am and is seldom home to his wife, also a teacher, and their five children before 5pm.


Since coming to Manurewa South from an equally impoverished school in nearby Otara, Kolose, 40, has introduced or cemented in a number of services to improve his students' lot.

A counsellor and a social worker both work on-site part-time. "What that allows us to do is deal with the social issue side of things that students struggle with, and we can get on with ... teaching," says Kolose.

Other programmes at the school include Just Kids - a values-based programme for Year 4 to 6 pupils, as well as Kids Can, offering food, clothing and shoes to students who would otherwise go without.

Kolose also coaches sport teams and helps with school performances. He notes a lot of boys in particular have not experienced good strong male role models.

"Through me being Pasifika and male, I hope I can provide that model so they can be great leaders in our community."