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Caption: From left, inaugural scholarship recipient Andrea Williams, Rozel Pharazyn, David Pearson and Roger and SuYen Pharazyn.

EIT Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood Education) student Andrea Williams is the inaugural winner of a scholarship celebrating the educational legacy of Mary Pharazyn – a leading light in New Zealand’s Playcentre movement.

On campus to present the scholarship with her brother Roger and his wife SuYen, Mary’s daughter Rozel Pharazyn said her mother was one of “a good long family line of women keeping their kids by teaching”.

Mary trained as a New Zealand Nursery Playcentre Association supervisor between 1957-1961 and was appointed liaison officer for the East Coast and Hawke’s Bay when she and her family moved back to Havelock North after five years living on the Kāpiti coast.

Mary helped establish playcentres in areas that included Raupunga, Omakere, Havelock North and Haumoana.

“At the time, there was no widely available pre-school education in New Zealand. The initiative for starting the Playcentre movement was the mothers, and it was always volunteers who took on the role,” says Rozel, who recalls her mother saying this arrangement wasn’t going to work in the long term.

“They were expecting educators to pay for their training to undertake voluntary work. My mother could see change coming.”

The mother-of-six died in 1978 at the age of 52. Her husband Martin, who passed away in 2014, made provision in his will to establish the Pharazyn Scholarship.

EIT Council chair David Pearson, who also chairs the Ōtātara Trust administering EIT scholarships, said it was a generous legacy.

“The family has shown extraordinary generosity. It’s a welcome addition to the trust’s scholarship portfolio, recognising Mary’s work and celebrating that on an ongoing basis.”

Aimed at supporting EIT’s early childhood education studies, the scholarship will be awarded annually to a final-year degree student.

In her final year at EIT, Andrea plans to put her $2000 award towards study costs, including a new laptop or tablet to record class notes.

Born and raised in Argentina, Andrea and her husband Mauricio came to New Zealand 23 years ago on a year’s contract – “we never left,” she says. Living in Greenmeadows, Andrea and Mauricio became New Zealand citizens a month ago.

“At 47,” she says, “I am the oldest in my class and the only one from overseas.”

The mother-of-three and grandmother of twins has found EIT a warm and supportive learning environment. She is looking forward to a five-week practicum at Carlyle Kindergarten, and then, at the end of the year, to launching into her teaching career.

Andrea will encounter a rather different teaching environment than that experienced by Mary Pharazyn and her colleagues.

“She had the time of her life running up and down the country,” Rozel says of her mother. “At the time, kindergartens were not available to everybody and by no means could all youngsters have an early childhood education.

“A grassroots movement, Playcentre was a way to get that happening.”

An educator herself, Rozel taught at Wellington Polytechnic and Whitireia New Zealand. Other women in the family who also worked in education include her great grandmother who, widowed when she was just 18, supported her baby daughter by teaching at Spit School in Napier.

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