Schooling South Auckland

What happens when a university empowers the citizens of South Auckland to teach in the classrooms of South Auckland? As the need for more Pacific teachers grow, and in direct response to teacher shortages in Auckland along with a demand from those wanting to study teaching in South Auckland AUT is moving their School of Education to South Auckland from February 2018.



From February 2018 students will be able to study early childhood, primary and secondary teaching at the South Campus in Manukau, in addition to the City Centre and North Shore.


This includes the Bachelor of Education, a three-year degree specialising in either early childhood education or primary teaching, and Graduate Diploma in Secondary Teaching.


During the final year, students have the opportunity to specialise in Pasifika teaching – doing their practicum in a Pacific early childhood centre, bilingual unit or school with a high-level of Pacific students.


The university recently sought and gained dispensation from a government moratorium on new teacher education programmes.


Lyn Lewis, Head of the School of Education, says the move is in direct response to teacher shortages in Auckland and demand from those wanting to study teaching in South Auckland.


“We consulted with school principals, teachers and community leaders in South Auckland, and there was overwhelming support for us to provide education programmes at the South Campus,” she says.


Almost 30 percent of students enrolled in the School of Education’s undergraduate programmes live in Auckland’s South or South- Western suburbs.


Until now, they have usually studied at the North Campus.


“We are very conscious of the cost of travel and the time involved for these students. It requires a considerable commitment on their behalf,” says Lewis.


Ezra Feau, 25, is a senior teacher at Puhinui Primary School in Papatoetoe.


He graduated from AUT with a Bachelor of Education (Primary Pasifika) in 2014. For three years, he made the weekday trek from Otara to Northcote – a two-hour commute that frequently involved three buses, each way.


“Seven of us from South Auckland started this journey together, but only three of us finished,” says Feau.



For Māori and Pacific students, the challenge isn’t usually the study or mahi (work) involved – it takes the form of familial obligation, financial strain and having to walk between two worlds.


Being able to study closer to home alleviates some of the pressure.


The South Campus provides university education in the heart of South Auckland.


Last year, a new sustainable state-of-the-art building was unveiled – Mana Hauora (the power of wellbeing).


The $56 million development doubled the capacity of the campus and provides tangible proof of AUT’s long-term commitment to South Auckland.


“Another reason for moving the School of Education to the South Campus is to take advantage of the modern, well-resourced teaching and study spaces that will enhance the staff and student experience,” says Lewis.


Dr Tafili Utumapu-McBride is a senior lecturer at the School of Education. She maintains that having a university in South Auckland helps young people aspire to higher education.


“For me, it’s about serving the community and making sure that there is a place in the neighbourhood for people to study, because there is so much potential here,” she says.



Manukau City is home to New Zealand’s youngest, most diverse, fastest growing population.


According to the Ministry of Education, the district has 65 schools (primary, intermediate and secondary) with more than 32,000 students – 60 percent of them are Pacific.


Dr Utumapu-McBride has a simple philosophy on education.


“You need to know me to teach me,” she says.


“Pacific communities have the value of love – alofa, ofa and aroha. That’s not part of the curriculum, but it is part of our culture. If our graduates show that, in their love of teaching and love of children, it will strengthen their rapport in the classroom and the community.”


Feau puts these principles into practice with Year 5 students. He seldom has any problems with behaviour management.


“I get to know the kids. Most of the time, I can anticipate what’s going to happen and pre-empt it, because I already know if a child doesn’t respond well to a certain person or situation,” he says.


“We need more Pacific teachers. We walk into the classroom with a Pacific mind-set and solve problems in a different way. The kids can relate to you. You understand why they don’t look you in the eye. You understand it on a different level, because you’ve lived what they’ve lived.”


In New Zealand, there are 1,611 Pacific teachers – they represent just 2.9 percent of the total teacher headcount in state and state integrated schools.


“Yes, we do need more Pacific teachers,” says Dr Utumapu-McBride.



“But, we also want all of our graduates to understand Pacific values – the importance of children, family, culture and spirituality – so they can connect with the children they are teaching and their families, so the children can learn and achieve in their education.”


Dr Utumapu-McBride was born in Samoa and immigrated to New Zealand when she was two years old. Her parents’ aspirations were for her to do well at school. Her father would tell her ‘education is your future’.


In 1998, she received a Doctor of Philosophy in Education.


“Later, I understood what he meant – that it was through education that I would find my career path and destiny. The notion of service is engraved in my psyche – it is very much a Samoan thing. If you are going to aspire to anything it is through serving the community first,” she says.


It’s estimated that many of the students who study education at the South Campus will return to the local community as teachers.



For Feau, the intention was always to teach in South Auckland.


“The goal is to give back to the community that you come from. I felt that there was a real need out South, especially for kids like me who grew up without a father,” he says.


“It really does take a village to raise a child.”


Raised by a single mother in Otara, Feau spent a lot of time looking after three younger siblings. The transition from companion and carer to teacher came naturally. For him, it didn’t even feel like work.


The most important profession may have come under fire recently – with teacher shortages, remuneration and red-tape making headlines – but Dr Utumapu-McBride maintains that those who are passionate about teaching will pursue it.


“They are driven by the desire to make a difference. They will move heaven and earth to make it happen – even more so now that it’s in their neighbourhood,” she says.


“If you send your children to us we will look after them. We will awhi (cherish) them. We will make sure that they achieve.” 


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