Oho Mauri gives college leavers second chance

By Tamati Tiananga

More than 100 North Waikato High School rangatahi aged 15-17 years have been given an opportunity to change their pathway to avoid joining the dole queue.

Oho Mauri founder Lizana Tuake and her small team continue to work hard to reduce high truancy students into committed and driven employees.

"Some rangatahi from previous cohorts come from a third generation of unemployed whānau. In essence, it's really important Oho Mauri keeps the mana of the whānau intact. Regardless, we know that some of our rangatahi come from intergenerational trauma," Tuake says.

Rangatahi are running at the chance to change their lives through the 10-week Oho Mauri programme.

Awakening their talents 

These future parents and employees say they are a lucky bunch of rangatahi. They will avoid being an unemployment statistic at all costs, becoming a textbook's best friend and work towards being conditioned and ready for mahi. 

Oho Mauri student Emily Katipa (16) says, "I had a hard pathway when I was in school. I didn't really know how to cope well in class. I got kicked out in year 10 for fighting and getting into a lot of bad stuff. I got put into a course but didn't really cope well and then got put into this course and found my way, making it easier in life now."  

Another Oho Mauri student Ashante Roberts (16) says, "They actually help you. You talk to them about stuff and they [teachers] will help you whereas if you're at school you will ask for help but you are just sitting there most of the class."

Who is Oho Mauri?

The Oho Mauri 10-week Transitions Programme was formed in July 2020 after the first Covid lockdown and has since served 121 rangatahi. The programme is underpinned by te ao Māori concepts and hauora, and weaves together work readiness tools, work fitness, soft skills and life skills to equip school-leavers into either further education, training and or employment that is most meaningful to them. Support is also provided post-graduation. 

This is the latest intake of 11 students in the seventh (7th) cohort. They are predominantly Māori, all with background stories of having no support, and feeling misunderstood by mainstream education.  

Tuake says, "mainstream schooling doesn't have the right setup and resourcing and relatability and that's fundamentally important."

For these second-chance learners, it's all about breaking the cycle. They say the unemployment benefit is not an option and the key to a happy future is earning an honest living.

Tuake says, "It's why I wake up. Graduation is amazing and then seeing their transition and seeing how they support their whānau and contribute back to their own space is really rewarding." 

The Ministry of Education will release the latest data later this month but its hautū (leader) Operations and integration Sean Teddy supplied details of the 2020 survey of attainment, which showed in 2020 the overall rates of attainment of NCEA improved across the motu, with larger increases at NCEA Level 3 or UE standard, and UE standard alone. Pacific school leavers had the largest improvement.

The proportion of students who remained at school until at least 17 years of age increased in 2020 after four years of decreases.