Going to school in New Zealand

Visiting Kapiti Primary School

PARAPARAUMU, NZ — After something like 26 hours of travelling (I lost count after having to sit an extra five hours at the airport in Auckland, NZ, when we missed our flight south to Wellington), we arrived in Paraparaumu yesterday, to visit my friend Charmead, her husband Chris and their two sons, Angus and Beck. I’ve missed almost two years of their lives now, after they moved to New Zealand from Port Alberni. I’ve known the boys since their births. Social media has kept us in touch and entering their home seemed like no time had passed at all.

The boys grew up attending francophone school in Port Alberni–école des grand-cédres–a small school of less than 50 children who do their learning in French. The beautiful thing about a small school is how parents and other family members are able to be closely involved in their children’s learning. I attended several different events over the years at the boys’ school, including Angus’ last presentation before he moved, when he told his classmates all about the Vancouver Canucks, and that his grandfather used to play for the team before they joined the National Hockey League. Angus Skyped with his grandfather from Alberta, translating his classmates’ questions from French and his grandfather’s replies from English. I was so proud at his confidence.

Today, my mom and I were invited to the boys’ school here in “Parapram”. Kāpiti Primary School holds an assembly every second Friday, where teachers give out awards: excel (role models), active learners, tu tangata (leadership) and Manaakitanga (respect). Teachers give out the awards, or they are chosen by fellow classmates. The principal also gives out an award, then there are some fun awards. There was also a presentation by two classmates on two of New Zealand’s birds, the wood pigeon (kereru) and the piwakawaka. The MCs for the assembly are students, and they introduce everything. Today’s MCs were two of Beck’s friends. The assembly lasts for about an hour.

The Maori culture is very much intertwined in the education system here, especially in language. The assembly began with the students singing the national anthem in both Maori and English; it moved me to tears to hear this beautiful song. I asked Char if it was OK to take a quick photo of the slide with the words on it at the beginning of the anthem.

They also have a school song, all in Maori, which they sang following the anthem.

This school makes a point of building up their students in a safe, respectful environment. Angus and Beck are both enrolled in a Montessori program that just began a year ago as part of the school. It’s an interesting learning environment that works alongside the public school, and admittedly I don’t know that much about how it is integrated within the school. I do know the boys are thriving.

Today was a privilege to be included in this small part of their education.


About susiequinn

I'm a journalist with a pen, notebook, camera and pilot's licence in my toolkit, and a passion for telling people's stories.
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