By: Alice Lock

Conrad Waitoa formed Inspire in Education. Photo / Warren Buckland

A man who struggled in education when he was younger has developed a programme to help keep more Māori students in school and achieving later in life.

Conrad Waitoa formed Inspire in Education after seeing the number of Māori students, particularly Māori boys, not achieving national standards.

The pilot programme, which looked at the student’s strengths and weaknesses and identified career and education goals, was introduced in March this year at Havelock North Intermediate.



Mr Waitoa said he was in discussion with other schools in the rohe to expand the programme so more students could benefit from the initiative.

Inspire in Education focused on teaching the children about themselves, what they enjoyed, what they were good at and what they needed a helping hand with.

“I want to sow the seed before it is too late – that is why I have picked 10- to 14-year-olds.”

Part of the goal was to guide Māori students away from drugs, alcohol and gangs and to decrease the rate of youth suicide.

“I figured if they feel happy about who they are, what they are doing and know they have someone to talk to they should feel less inclined to self-harm.”

Mr Waitoa dropped out of school at the age of 16 without any qualification and wished there was something like this that could have given him direction.

He said he was made to feel dumb, and schools didn’t get him and he didn’t get schools.

“A teacher said to me that I have a gift and I am a wonderful person and that actually stuck with me. I wish they had said that earlier to give me the direction and confidence I needed back then.”

He said it was important to make school a fun place so there would be less truancy and under-achieving.

“Maths can be a struggle for some kids so I took the subject out into the playground and we used bamboo to explain geometry and I think that sort of thing works really well.”

He also ran sessions with teachers and management so they could understand the difference in the Māori culture and how the students should be handled.

The programme looked at career visions and people out in the field had often come in to inspire the students.

Mr Waitoa is self-funding the programme after initially being sponsored for the past 10 months.

“I want to get the programme completely perfect before I present Inspire in Education to the Ministry of Education but I think the way it’s going at the moment is a good indication it’s working.”

Source: NZ Herald

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