By REBECCA WALSH
Sixteen-year-old Zantana Hagaitoa and her 3-month-old baby take three buses every weekday morning to get to school on time.
It's a long trip from Mangere to the Eden Campus in Mt Eden - Auckland's first Ministry of Education-funded teen parent unit - but the teenager is determined to finish her education.
"I thought I wouldn't be able to do anything," she said. "But me and my mum found this school, which is cool for me. I still wanted to go on with my school."
Zantana is one of 15 teenagers enrolled at Eden Campus, which will be officially opened by Prime Minister Helen Clark today.
Similar teen parent units have been running since the 1990s. The first, He Huarahi Tamariki, was set up by Susan Baragwanath in Porirua and is now in Tawa.
Eden Campus combines a school and licensed preschool in the old Metropolitan College building. It is run under the umbrella of Auckland Girls Grammar School but teenage mothers from throughout the Auckland isthmus can attend.
Director Robin Fraser, former chairwoman of the school's board of trustees, said teenage mums potentially faced a life on benefits but continuing their education "gives them a future, it gives them choices".
Students studied via Correspondence School with the help of on-site teachers, and in their breaks could play with and feed their babies in the licensed preschool downstairs.
Mrs Fraser said that in the present class, one girl wanted to do medicine and another law. Zantana hoped to land a job in tourism.
"They have the same ambition as other girls but they have a different dimension to their lives and that takes more accommodating."
New Zealand has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the developed world. A Save the Children report released in May found New Zealand had the third-largest number of teen pregnancies, behind the United States and Russia.
A total of 27 in every 1000 births in New Zealand are to a teenage mother - almost twice the rate in Australia and triple that of Belgium or France.
About 300 teenage mothers attend teen parenting units nationwide. It is understood that two more units are planned for South Auckland.
For Zantana, Eden Campus (which can accommodate 30 mum) offers a chance to continue studying towards her NCEA qualification while her son, Xavjah, is just metres away, rather than staying home.
She has also been selected for the New Zealand Women's Under-19 indoor cricket team and is hoping she will be able to make it to next year's international tournament.