21 Aug 2015

Efforts to save troubled boarding school

6:55 pm on 21 August 2015

A Māori boarding school that the Government is considering closing down has brought in a consultant to help find ways to keep the kura open.

Students at Turakina Maori Girls' School.

Students at Turakina Māori Girls' College Photo: Facebook

The Government is considering the viability of Turakina Māori Girls' College in Marton, which is about halfway between Whanganui and Palmerston North, after its roll fell to just 54 students this year. The school is also facing financial problems.

On Thursday night, the Turakina Māori Girls' College Board of Trustees held a hui after it received a government report that pointed the blame at the school's proprietor for the kura's financial problems.

The report said the trust board (the school's proprietor, which is different to the board of trustees) had been unable to provide the Ministry of Education with adequate information on its financial state.

At the hui, a consultant, Bill Hamilton, was brought in to help come up with strategies to keep the school open.

Board of trustees chair Trish Biddle-Amoroa said Mr Hamilton was considering options including many of the suggestions in the submissions the board received.

"Bill Hamilton is engaging with people who we've identified are a voice to be heard," she said.

"So he's going through his schedule and people are ringing in and asking to meet with him... He's going through that process with us including the submission stage."

Leslie Louise Aue of Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga descent, who attended Turakina from 2007 to 2011, was among those to make a submission. She said one of her suggestions was to ask for financial assistance from different iwi.

"Raising roll numbers and getting in behind future students and promoting our school from where we can amongst our family and friends," she said.

"There's been talk of challenging iwi for funds."

Call to rally former students

Ngā Wāhine Tawhito o Turakina Ngā Hara Incorporated president Himaima Eichstaedt, who is of Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Maru and Ngāti Ruanui descent and attended Turakina in the mid-1990s, is calling on former students to join her newly-formed old girls' association.

She said one thing her group was talking about was an annual membership fee that would help give the kura a much-needed cash injection.

"We are currently formulating ideas on how to inject funds, but first we need to get all our ngā wāhine tawhito (old girls) out there to actually come in and join our association," Ms Eichstaedt said.

"We need to get our registration numbers up and start getting membership fees in, and then their ideas coming in, so we can help inject some funds into the school."

Ms Eichstaedt said her old girls' association would hold an event on the steps of Parliament next month to help raise awareness of the school's plight, and to try and get public support.

"We are current organising a reception in Wellington on 10 September," she said.

"We are inviting anyone, everyone, to come in and meet with us on the forecourt of Parliament, to come to the Maranga Mai Turakina reception, where we plan on showcasing the kura's proud 110-year history and performing 'Ka Panapa' on the forecourt."

The two former students spoken to by Te Manu Korihi were happy that the school's board had brought in external help to look at strategies to stop the Government closing down the kura at the end of the year.

The school is owned by the Presbyterian Church, and its Māori synod said Turakina should be supported and protected by legislation.

It said the Government, church and iwi should contribute to a taonga endowment fund, among other suggestions, to maintain and develop the school's facilities.

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