NCEA put on hold at Kia Aroha College due to lockdown

By Marena Mane

Senior secondary students across Aotearoa were awarded extra NCEA credits last year after the lockdown, and Haley Milne, the principal of Kia Aroha College and Te Akatea (Māori Principals Association) vice-president, believes they will be offered again this time - depending on how long the lockdown lasts.

But Milne says her school and community have chosen to put NCEA on hold to focus on survival, which she considers more vital.

However, she is also urging universities to and re-evaluate their eligibility criteria for students to enter university.

“In the past two years of education, secondary schools have been remarkably different. So, we need to have some remarkably different entry criteria.”

“There's no point in using the same criteria,” she says.

Following the revelation that the level four lockdown will last until at least midnight on Friday, and longer in Auckland, most New Zealand students have resumed their online studies. 

When Kia Aroha College in Ōtara, South Auckland, went into lockdown for the first time last year, 97 per cent of its students didn't have access to the internet to do their work.

Although Milne is proud of her students and their resilient nature in lockdowns, she says the real issue for them is robust internet connections.

“We've been given a few solutions but, for us, it's about longer-term, and more permanent solutions rather than solutions that are only a few months at a time.”

Inequities in education 

Milne says the inequities are still prominent in the education system and says that it is not just education that’s at the helm.

According to Milne, South Auckland is always subjected to blame and hate messages in the way cases are reported and the language used.

"All of those sorts of things just create far more anxiety for our community, which is already under some significant pressure .”

Milne says she is quite worried that as a country, “we’re not getting that right.”

“I would have hoped that in the past 18 months we would have got that a little bit more right than we have, unfortunately.”

According to Milne, another issue for the community is access to testing stations for whānau that don’t have a car. “It’s a 40-minute walk,” she says. 

Principals doing it tough

Due to her role with Te Akatea, Milne's responsibilities increased during the lockdown, so she was not only keeping her school, students, and staff safe but also had the wider community to consider. She says it becomes a very complex situation, but she is very proud of all the principals in Aotearoa doing what they can.

“It's actually a little bit more problematic than it sounds. But I think that all of the principals are just doing whatever is the best for our communities, and that may not be the same. But we just focused on trying to get through really.”

“I think that also on this particular round, the anxiety of it being on our doorstep and numerous locations of interest in our community and lots of those being supermarkets, just becomes really tough,” she says.