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Kawerau community still a focus for Toi Ohomai education

Kawerau community still a focus for Toi Ohomai education
Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology

Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology has reinforced its commitment to help improve the social and economic outlook of the Kawerau community.

Yesterday afternoon the chief executives and delegates from both Toi Ohomai and Tuwharetoa Ki Kawerau Health, Education and Social Services met at Tangatarua Marae on the Toi Ohomai campus to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) and re-confirm the organisations’ mutual dedication to continue their efforts.

The MoU outlines a partnership where Toi Ohomai provides education and training in the Kawerau community so residents have access to tertiary education locally rather than having to commute to a Toi Ohomai campus. In turn, Kawerau iwi provide the training sites and pastoral care needed to support the students during their tertiary journey.

“We can’t sit here, in the main centres and wait for those students to come to us,” said Dr Leon Fourie, Toi Ohomai chief executive. “We need to reach out to the regions, we need to reach out to the communities and create much better access to education with clear pathways to employment of further studies.”

The partnership, having been in effect for several years prior to the merger of Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and Waiariki Institute of Technology, has rapidly proved its worth. Last year for example, students, even before they graduated from the programme, were head-hunted by their local health providers who needed employees.

“From my perspective, this is what a good partnership looks like,” said Dr Fourie to Tuwharetoa Ki Kawerau’s CEO Chris Marjoribanks during the pohiri.

“A good partnership, where Tuwharetoa Ki Kawerau has the capability and the reach within the community to market Toi Ohomai’s skills and qualification outcomes, for iwi to provide teaching facilities and pastoral care to our students, and Toi Ohomai provides teaching staff, technology and learning support, it’s a match made in heaven. It is a win-win-win outcome.

“As a partnership, we are improving access to education and increasing educational outcomes for Māori which leads to improved workforce participation for Māori, and as a result will increase living standards and prosperity for our communities.”

As a lifelong resident of Kawerau, Mr Marjoribanks is known for his passion for his community and his determination to improve its socioeconomic status.

“Please accept my emotional feelings around this day,” he said, acknowledging Toi Ohomai’s dedication to his community and relaying how much it means to him to provide opportunities to those who don’t have easy access to tertiary education.

“I have a degree of frustration around some of the government models of [education] delivery and where we can further develop and engage with delivery within our communities. I think many of the agencies miss the reality of many of our whānau’s home environment, there’s a lot of judging as opposed to understanding. But if we can bring education to our communities and bridge that gap, particularly when it progresses to employment, we can step out of the social dependency to self-determination.”

He said what began as a process of engagement with the Kawerau whānau and community in providing opportunities has evolved into “more structured types of training around the health side which are both better pathways to employment and deeper learning for individuals.”

The community’s outlook has improved, said Mr Marjoribanks.

“I’m definitely seeing a shift in that area. We’re providing opportunities and solutions for change, and particularly education has to be a key part of that. There are significant opportunities being available in our community, and that can be transformational in terms of those whānau lives.”

While the curriculum in Kawerau is necessarily limited at this time, residents don’t need to stop their education pathway due to logistics. Those wanting to continue their education to higher levels can take advantage of free transportation to and from Rotorua.

There’s still time for Kawerau residents to enrol for this semester. Courses commence on Monday, 27 February.

Photo caption: Chris Marjoribanks, CEO of Tuwharetoa Ki Kawerau Health, Education and Social Services, and Dr Leon Fourie, CE of Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, signed a contract to continue a long-standing partnership that brings tertiary education to Kawerau.

– Ends –

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