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From Student To Supporter In Early Childhood Education Programme

When Sahra Hassan completed UCOL’s New Zealand Certificate in Early Childhood Education and Care (Level 4) in 2021 she didn’t expect she’d be repeating the class so soon. Hassan, a Somali national, is now working alongside the UCOL lecturer helping a full class of 25 Somali women with language support. It is going so well a second class will be starting this week.

In 2021 Hassan was working for Nurtured at Home, an in-home early childhood education provider, and was interested in getting more formal training. “I wanted to build my knowledge further. It was my boss who told me about UCOL’s in-work programme, and that I could study it while continuing to work”.

“It was my first experience studying by distance but it was awesome – the teachers were so helpful, and it was really convenient to fit around my part time work and being a mum to a two-year old. Plus I could do my placement within my normal work hours.”

After hearing about Hassan’s success in the course, word spread like wildfire, and soon UCOL had an entire class of Somali women looking to take part. UCOL then employed Hassan to help offer language support to these cohorts. “It was so amazing! It’s my first time having a role in tertiary education, helping others learn and applying this to their work.”

“Many in the class are like me, working in home-based care, and are mothers themselves. Some of them I did encourage – they were very frightened at first, and had some hesitation, but I could say ‘Hey, I did it, and a lot of people will be there to help you, including me.’”

Classes have some face to face experiences and include live online sessions, using a tool called Collaborate where learners can contribute, listen to their lecturers, interact and ask questions. “They’re doing great – some have already nearly finished – all they needed was just a little bit of support with the paperwork and their English.” Sahra’s role is to support the UCOL lecturer and help students achieve a strong understanding of Te Whāriki, the New Zealand Early Childhood Curriculum, especially unique words and meanings. This has improved how students are applying Te Whāriki in practice.

Hassan’s lecturers say that it’s been great to see the big shift in her confidence levels, and she agrees. “Where I was compared to where I started, it’s completely different – I have so much more knowledge now. I’m already using it with the children I care for, with my daughter Hodan, and for helping support my community.”

“Even my work has started pointing other staff members my way. They said ‘Do you know Sahra? She can tell you all about it!’”

Despite balancing her Nurtured at Home work, providing language support, and having a second baby on the way, Hassan’s already looking forward to learning more. “I’m planning to get my translation card, so I can become a qualified translator in future. But I also want to do the next level of early childhood education study, or maybe a health certificate. I’d love to learn with UCOL again.”

To anyone who’s thinking about study, Hassan’s advice is to jump in. “I would say to them – make the decision, don’t be frightened. Just trust yourself.”



UCOL is a part of Te Pūkenga. Te Pūkenga was established to better meet the needs of learners and employers by bringing together on-job, on-campus and online learning across Aotearoa New Zealand. By 1 January 2023, Te Pūkenga will create a unified, sustainable public network of regionally accessible vocational and applied learning.

Together, we aim to provide excellent quality education opportunities that support learners, employers and communities to gain the skills, knowledge and capabilities Aotearoa needs now and for the future.

UCOL have Ministry of Education funding to support home-based Early Childhood staff gain the New Zealand Certificate in Early Childhood Education and Care Level 4 qualification. This funding enables UCOL to delivery this programme to these students fees-free. UCOL is delivering this qualification in a number of regions across New Zealand, partnering with other Te Pūkenga subsidiaries in other regions to ensure the students are well supported in their learning.


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