R M Cullen
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|elite athlete development||diabetes reversal||genome topology||evolution|
|tamaki sports academy||diabetes blog|
|James Bell, Warrior||John Rohs, Principal||Jazz Tevaga, Warrior|
Ten years or so ago I co-authored Maori Education. In large measure the book was motivated by the dreadful state education system in Papakura where incompetent, disinterested teachers abused young Maori and denied them any opportunity for educational achievement. My view was that Papakura High School, under the rule of then principal Angela Appleby was a significant driver of a cluster of youth suicides. As the family doctor for a number of at-risk young people I encouraged their removal from that school. The youth suicide outbreak ended shortly thereafter.
In Maori Education, after a discussion of the poor quality of Papakura primary schools we said, 'All this leaves Papakura High School in an unenviable position. A large proportion, probably the majority, of its year nine intake of Maori students are inadequately prepared for success at secondary school. The school is not capable of turning so many Maori children around. Its response is that of a disillusioned veteran. The least well-prepared and worst-behaving Maori are placed in cabbage classes (home rooms) and left to serve out their time. The school is encircled by a large sharp-tipped stockade-type fence to narrow down the exit options for students leaving during the day. Security guards patrol the grounds to deter violence. Staff reassure themselves that nothing more can be done. The school is a testimony to the result of deficit-theorizing.'
Since then the roll at Papakura High School has declined dramatically - from around 1,300 (48% Maori) to 500 or so (64% Maori). There was talk of closure. All well and good, except that Rosehill College, which has swept up most of the students who would otherwise have gone to 'Kura, has taken relatively few Maori. Some three hundred and twenty young Maori remain trapped at Papakura High. Half, but only half, of young Maori have been able to go elsewhere.
The Maori community in Papakura is complex. I recall a family where the mother took two of her boys out to burgle houses. Too often the family reality is that if you are four you are old enough to babysit the little ones while mum goes off to the pub, or in one case to the casino for a long weekend. The Maori community in Papakura has been exploited by the local marae which sought government contracts in order to provide jobs for friends and family without any thought to improving the lot of those they were contracted to serve. However, the negatives are outweighed, way outweighed, by the positives. The overwhelming majority of Maori in Papakura are good people. They just keep getting crapped on. Angry disengaged young people - in the circumstances that's a good sign. The trick for teachers at the school is to understand and redirect that anger rather then using it as the basis for an adverse judgment of the teenager and community.
Since the beginning of 2016 the school has had a new principal, John Rohs, and from all accounts he is a fine chap. He seems to advocate for the students, which is a large and necessary first step. Allen Kukutai is on the Board of Trustees, and seems to be the school kaumatua. That is also good news.
But the biggest asset of the school is, and always has been, its students. Flanking Mr Rohs in the photos above are James Bell from the class of 2011 and Jazz Tevaga from the class of 2013. Both are professsional sportsmen, and both reflect that something special to be found in communities like 'Kura.
So, having got over my pique at the idea that a middle aged white man with little or no hair thinks he has something to offer Papakura, the question is what might I do to help?
Mr Rohs is the rising tide that should lift all boats in the school as it were. Me, well I could tutor a small group of year 10 and 11 students in maths and english if the school could arrange assessment and maybe reassessment for the related unit standards. In an ideal world, we'd have a karakia to open each session and a bit of a feed at the end. Oh wait, I offered to do this ten years or more ago and Ms Appleby wasn't having a bar of it. We did it anyway and had a local Private Training Establishment (PTE) assess the learning. Pete and I were prosecuted for running an illegal school and the PTE was threatened with withdrawal of its accreditation. 'Kura!