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Memories Collected Ahead of Centenary

Media Statement

Wednesday 30 August 2006

Memories Collected, Links Established, Ahead of Matawai School Centenary

As Matawai School prepares for its centenary, pupils have started delving into the past recording the memories of former pupil 93-year-old Maude Shaw.

Now living in Gisborne, Mrs Shaw was a pupil at Matawai School in 1919. She will be a special guest at the Matawai School Centenary in Easter 2008 for she also represents a remarkably direct ancestral link between the past and present. Her sister’s grandson, Tony Grey, is Matawai School’s current principal.

Continued family connections within the district have shaped Matawai School and ensured its longevity, says former pupil, and Chair of the Centenary Celebrations Committee Mike Gibson.

“It’s always been a family orientated school, and the same families are still involved to this day simply because the farming community has stayed here.”

Mr Gibson said many of the original families had seen three, sometimes four generations of children go through the school. Family names like Clark, Hustler, Judd, Langer, Redpath, Robb, Shaw and Smith are as common today as they were ninety years ago.

During Mrs Shaw’s visit last week, children chronicled some of her earliest memories. They learned that times were tougher than they are now.

“When I was here we didn’t have concrete like you do today. It was grass and dirt and every time the wind blew the dust would blow up in our faces. Children came to school on horse-drawn coaches,” she told them.

One-thousand registrations are expected for the weekend Centenary Celebrations in 2008 which is likely to include a sit-down marquee dinner on the school grounds, and publication of a souvenir book.

It will be a far cry from the early days. The first school in Matawai, 70km west of Gisborne, boasted just five pupils.

At the insistence of the first inspector to visit the school, a classroom was erected in 1913 and is still in use today as a technology room and play centre.

Matawai School currently has 89 pupils, four teachers, and six part time teachers, support or administration staff.

“It’s a strong school with a proud tradition and remains the central focus of the district. Thousands of people have passed through its gates and the Centenary Celebrations are our way of commemorating that,” Mr Gibson said.


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