Number of Pasifika high school students now working full time a growing concern

DJ Tuaru Temu tears up when he thinks how many Pasifika high school students are working full time to support their families who’ve lost income due to Covid-19.

The head of the Tamaki College’s Tereora Academy, set up to encourage students to reach their full potential, says 38 of their students have been working since lockdown.

In a survey sent to those student, the first response was from a year 12 student who said he has no time to complete necessary assignments because he is working 12 hour shifts as a security guard.

“I cried to the point I had to call the principal and share my frustration and my sadness, it breaks my heart,” he said.

Temu added that it’s like waging a war.

“The war is us trying to battle everything outside those gates that is preventing our young people becoming the best version of themselves,” he said.

The college in Glen Innes has set up a number of initiatives through the Pasifika Futures-funded Tereora Academy to ensure the students come back.

That includes being flexible about assignment deadlines and even offering to negotiate with employers to reduce students hours – and then making up the wage difference.

Staff have rung the families of every student at the school to see what help is needed – so far there’s been more than 1700 calls made and numerous food packages sent out.

“We interact with the families to engage with them on a one on one to understand what the need is,” Temu said.

Top academic twins, Tuakana and Kuraia Atuatika, are grateful for the help from their college.

They both work 40-45 hours a week and although they miss the online classes they are keeping up with their assignments.

Tuakana says family is everything to the pair.

“Growing up in a big family I know it’s hard for mum, its just one income coming into the house so that’s basically what got us into working so we could start helping and also start saving for our future,” she said.

For Kuraia, the challenge has been juggling employment with school work and family commitments but the twins say they are committed to making it work.

Their mum says while the need is there if the girls let their marks slip she will make them drop the employment as she believes the priority is education.

“I always told my girls, all my children, I had you to be better than me and just move forward in life,” she said.

Pasifika Futures CEO Debbie Sorensen is concerned at what her organisation is seeing.

The agency funds five high schools to try and make a difference and all of them are telling her they are facing an uphill battle in getting young Pasifika back to school as they feel a strong obligation to help their families.

“It’s really a big issue…we are looking at a whole generation that has had their education been disrupted so this is going to take a really considered effort and plan  to look at the outcomes for these young people,” she said.

Sourced from 1News – watch the interview here.

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