Over 180 Māori and non-Māori Waikato University students graduated at Te Kohinga Mārama Marae, including widowed mother-of-eight Jackie Tamaki, who completed her Masters in Education in te reo Māori, although she's still learning te reo.
Tamaki says despite the proud tribute by her whānau, she owes it all to them. “This degree is for my whānau from Pōhara and Purerekireki marae and my children,” she says.
Tamaki did not grow up speaking Māori which inspired her 20,000 Māori word dissertation "Ko wai au I te Ao, I te Poo" - that children who know their whakapapa, reo and customs are confident, as opposed to children who didn't were shy.
“We are amazed at what she has achieved and to hear that her dissertation was written in Māori,” says the leader of Te Haona Kaha haka group, Haani Huata.
“It's not easy to write your Masters degree paper for a fluent speaker, so that's why I'm so proud of her.”
Tamaki's reo journey began six years ago as an original member of family haka group Te Haona Kaha, where te reo is the main language spoken.
“She was surrounded with support to complete her degree in Māori, but she did all the work,” says Huata.
“Sometimes I felt like giving up,” says Tamaki, “because I felt I couldn't finish it. I was exhausted, with a home to organise and I work as well.”
Tamaki has set her sights on completing a PHD in the future, however next year she is enrolled at Te Aupikitanga ki Te Reo Kairangi at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.