Topic: Education

The revival of Māori boarding schools - Feature

By Aroha Treacher

Te Aute,  is a boarding school that has a proud history dating right back to 1854 when its doors first opened.

However it's dwindling roll and financial problems almost saw their doors shut for good, problems which got thrust into the public spotlight.

According to Stephen Jacobi, “It's been very difficult for the Te Aute and Hukarere community they've had to cope with a very large degree of financial insecurity.”

“All the money that has been set aside for these schools has been taken up by paying back debt on investments.”

Low rental return on endowment land gifted to the school coupled with unfruitful farming investments in the Wairarapa region by former members of the Te Aute Trust Board, meant all the Trust's land assets were mortgaged creating a huge debt.

With no Government financial assistance, the Church is now picking up the pieces.

Under direction from Te Pīhopatanga, $9.2 mil has been made available through the St Johns College Trust Board to pay off the debt with the idea to release funding streams previously tied up in the farms for future school development.

A collaborative effort to turn these schools around and save them from being lost has meant sweeping changes be implemented.

With a new board of trustees, hostel manager and a new principal, Te Aute has a fresh outlook for the future.

It seems now the fruits of that labour is starting to pay off, as both Hukarere and Te Aute enjoy glowing ERO reports.

NCEA results for Te Aute are sitting above the national average and with hostel renovations in the pipeline the aim is to grow the roll from its current 76 to 120 by 2016.

Now that the land assets are back under the control of the Trust and a new board established, this solid governance structure means the painful lessons from the past can be put behind them as they move forward in a positive direction.