Called Hiwa-i-te-rangi, after one of the stars in the Matariki cluster, the unit opened in temporary premises in Kaikohe last year with a handful of students, but has now moved into a purpose-built facility with space for up to 30.
“School wasn’t for me but this has been really good. Before this I would just stay home and my baby stayed home too. Now he’s in a pre-school programme across the road where I can see him anytime. It’s helped both of us be more sociable, and he loves it. I’m hoping for a better future for me and my baby.”
Ataria Reid, from Moerewa, whose youngest is 4 months, is doing a paper in Maori studies via the University of Canterbury.
She is aiming for a level four certificate in mental health and wants to work in Kaikohe.
Before starting at the unit she would “sleep all day and do nothing”. Now her life had structure and she was improving herself.
“Here we’re treated like adults, you get one-on-one time with the teachers, and everyone in the class has been through what we’ve been through,” she said.
The new unit is on Purdy St, next to Kaikohe East School, and comes under Northland College. It has two classrooms, a food technology room, a laundry and an interview room. It is the only teen parent unit in Northland outside Whangarei.
Manager Kim Peita said the unit was open to any parents up to 19 years old – she’d love to have some young dads as well – from pregnancy until their children were 4.
Two full time and two part-time teachers taught level 1-3 NCEA with subjects they couldn’t offer covered by correspondence. One student, for example, was studying nursing via the Southern Institute of Technology.
Transport and childcare was provided with students given the option of taking their children to class or leaving them in the care of Kowhai Corner across the road.
Ms Peita said the demands of regular secondary school were too much for most young parents. Many also felt they were judged by their peers or government agencies, and school was not a suitable environment and once the baby was born.
Girls who had left school after becoming pregnant were now resuming their education with staff helping them plan the steps they needed to achieve their goals.
“A lot of our girls feel they haven’t been successful at school and aren’t happy with their learning. We want to change that,” Ms Peita said.
They could also share experiences and support each other.
“They all know what it’s like to be up all night with a sick baby and still come to school.”
- Prospective students or anyone interested in the new unit is invited to an open day from 10am-2pm on Wednesday, March 8.
SOURCE: The Northern Advocate