By: Simon Collins

Nine weeks ago, 15-year-old schoolgirl Jane Boriboon had a baby.

This weekend, she and a friend from Nelson College for Girls, Ngawiki Rotana, spoke out at an education summit in Christchurch about how their lives were transformed when the college created a supportive house for them and eight other girls on the school grounds.

They don’t live in the house, which had been vacant and has now been renamed Bronte House. The girls have some classes and extra tuition in the house but attend specialist subjects in mainstream classrooms.

But it has created a supportive space in a place that they had turned away from – school.

“It’s like a second home to me,” Jane said. “They are all my friends, I call them like family. They are just so supportive, you always have someone’s shoulder to cry on when you’re upset.”

Although Jane was born in New Zealand, her parents are Thai. She had a difficult childhood.

“In my early childhood, me and my brother were getting shifted between Mum, Dad and Nana,” she said.

In her first year at college, she began drinking, taking drugs and skipping school, often attending only for the first period.

“It possibly was the crowd I was hanging with,” she said. “When I started ditching after first period I would always be with someone. We’d go and hang out with all those other troubled people.”

She became caught in a violent relationship with a partner who left her pregnant at 14.

When college special needs co-ordinator Emma Hunter offered to help, she was afraid at first.

“I remember the first day I went into her class I was standing behind the door, really scared to go in,” she said.

But ironically, the pregnancy forced her to reach out and seek help.

“If it wasn’t for my baby, I don’t know where I’d be. I’d probably be off the rails still binge-drinking,” she said.

Ngawiki Rotana, a Year 10 student who moved to Nelson with her mum last year, leaving her dad in Hamilton, said she had attended 12 schools.

“We had to move all the time because we couldn’t afford a house,” she said.

She suffered severe anxiety and depression, but has found at Bronte House that she is in the top 5 per cent of the population for brain functions known as executive processing.

Hunter said the college did not get enough funding for the one-on-one help the girls needed in Bronte House, so instead she turned to the community. A tutor from the local polytech gives art classes, a personal trainer “gives up his time to work one-to-one with the girls”.

“We are continually looking at creative ways to help the girls.”

Source: NZ Herald


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