An Auckland education provider celebrated over 100 Early Childhood Education home-based graduates – all of whom were of Pacific heritage.
All119 graduates from the New Zealand Management Academies in Manukau completed their level 4 ECE home-based certificate.
Last year, the government announced home-based early childhood teachers would need to be fully qualified to ensure better and more consistent education.
As a result, NZMA Manukau saw an increase in enrolments from the Pacific community.
The majority of the graduates came from the Tongan community, which led to the decision for the graduation ceremony to take place at the Lesieli Tonga Auditorium, (attached to Māngere’s Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga), with Tonga’s Princess Mele Siu’ilikutapu Kalaniuvalu Fotofili presenting the graduates with their certificates.
44-year-old Tevita Afuhia Kioa first learnt about ECE through the ‘Api Fakakoloa Educational Services Limited – a network of eight home-based bilingual (Tongan and English) centres in Auckland.
Kioa used to work in construction, but due to a severe wrist injury that required two operations, he was advised by his specialist to consider a new career pathway.
“During the weekends when I would get ready for work, I would see children and teenagers walking along the street, vandalising the bus stop, and it made me think, what can I do to help them?
“A friend of mine told me about ‘Api Fakakoloa home-based teaching, and we loved it.”
He said the staff there encouraged him and his wife to do the course with NZMA so they would have the right credentials to teach.
“I am over the moon that I’ve graduated with my certificate because that means I am qualified to help nurture young people to have brighter futures.”
During Kioa’s studies, his church minister who knew of his passion to help the Pacific youth, introduced to him a company called Oceania Career Academy.
Oceania Career Academy (OCA) is New Zealand’s first Pacific-owned and led Private Training Establishment for Trades. OCA works to achieve more Pacific people in higher paid employment.
“The organisation deals with Māori and Pacific students who have dropped out of high school, those that stay home doing nothing and to be honest, it makes me cry.
Kioa said when he looked at the students, it was like he was looking at his own children and family members.
“I have 32 students from North Shore that I bring to OCA and they’re still there with most of them graduating at the end of the year with their level 3 construction and carpentry certificate.
“This is the work I want to do, helping our next generation into employment to hopefully live a stable life.
Kioa was born in Tonga and moved to New Zealand in 1995. Studying at NZMA was his first time studying in another country.
“It was a big challenge, balancing family life, work and studies, but it was also challenging because it has been over 20 years since I last sat in a classroom,” he said.
“I wanted to study ECE because in my opinion, in order to not have kids breaking bus stop signs for no reason, we need to start nurturing them when they’re very little. I am only one piece of the puzzle, but I want to be part of building the foundation of life in our young babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers.”
42-year-old educator at ‘Api Fakakoloa, Kulaea Taufa said she was excited by the opportunity to upskill and take the course.
“I have been teaching for three years, and once the Ministry of Education advised that all home-based teachers must be qualified, that encouraged me to and study for my certificate.
“It was a blessing in disguise to go back and study because I go to learn new aspects of teaching that I didn’t know when I initially started this journey with ECE.
Taufa’s love for home-based ECE stemmed from the idea that someone’s first learning environment should be at home.
“With ‘Api Fakakoloa, one of our main philosophies that we have is that when we teach our children, it always must come from the heart.
“Our children can sense when they feel loved, when there’s tension and so we strive to make them feel loved at home, feel respected, feel that we care for them because those very moments are important in their growth.
Taufa said the highlight of taking the course was for her four children to see the importance of education.
She said there was no age limit to studying.
“It was heart-warming to look at my children every night, we would read or do assignments together.
“It was hard as I have been away from school for a few years and there were so many sleepless nights, but looking at my family and making it to my graduation, it was definitely all worth it.”
57-year-old Prula Fakaosimalanga is an educator at Poimaino home-based ECE in Māngere. She has been teaching for over 10 years.
Fakaosimalanga wanted to upskill and decided to go back to the classroom after 40 years since she last studied back in Tonga.
“We started our classes on March 9th. Two weeks later, our country went into lockdown due to Covid-19.
“That then forced us to have our classes online and I found that hard because using Zoom was a brand-new thing for me.
“I had to rely on my grandchildren to help me with the technology. It was quite the circus.
Fakaosimalanga shared that the pandemic not only affected her studies, but also her graduation.
“My class was supposed to graduate in September, but then Auckland went into a second lockdown, so that’s why our graduation has been delayed to November.
“Given the recent case in Auckland’s CBD, I’m relieved our ceremony took place in a time that it did.
Fakaosimalanga plans to study for her diploma next year.
NZMA Manukau Campus Manager, Bijay Ratu, said he was humbled to celebrate a class of Pasifika people at this year’s graduation.
“I was honoured to share student journeys and experiences and see them achieve their goals.
“As I reflect on the occasion, I felt students were empowered and confident to go further and encourage education to their immediate and wider family members,” he said.