Māori students shine bright at South Pacific Islands Institute

By Mare Haimona-Riki

Hamilton based South Pacific Islands Institute aims to provide education for teenagers who are not currently at school or employed. With up to 65 students at any given time, founder Rachel Bourne says the intimate setting allows students to receive the aroha and manaaki they require, that they probably won't receive in mainstream education. 

“When they come into SPI, the first thing we do is they become a part of our family, the SPI family.”

The programme was established in 1988 and is open to student of all ethnic backgrounds and walks of life, however the majority of its students are Māori and Pasifika.

Manaaki Taukiri (Ngāti Māhanga) Source / supplied

Bourne says many of the students come with various mental and social barriers.  

“We have students who suffer from depression or anxiety, or they aren't able to be in big classrooms. Or they get bullied or they're not engaging with the teachers of the school,” she says. 

This extra support from the teachers is something Manaaki Taukiri (Ngāti Māhanga) is grateful for, having started at the programme in January this year. 

“The teachers really support us students, and encourage and help us overcome any mental barriers, even if that means staying home to get well again. She started at the programme in January this year.

With the school being shut down due to lockdown, students continue their learning online. This includes two Ngā Taiatea Wharekura students aspiring to be qualified makeup artists, specialising in skincare. 

Source / Facebook

“It’s pretty hard to study and learn our course online,” says Paihuarere Wiringi-Murphy (Te Arawa, Tūhoe).

Bourne says although the online programme may be less stressful on the teachers, she acknowledges the importance of the face to face orientation. 

“It's been very different, especially because our students need that face to face … they need that physical contact.” 

The institute aims to reopen in June.