Education advocate makes voice heard
Turoa Royal has had a life full of educational achievements, but he doesn't expect retirement to reduce his passion.
The Paremata resident was named in the New Year honours list as a Companion to the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to education. He has been a teacher, school principal, a foundation director of Whitireia Community Polytechnic and founding chief executive of Te Wananga o Raukawa, and worked within the walls of the Ministry of Education.
These days his heart lies in promoting education among indigenous people via a consortium of academics from the United States, Canada, Australia, Taiwan and Colombia. He also has a strong desire to highlight why the education system in New Zealand is failing Maori and is writing a book on the subject.
"I'm busy, got to stay busy.
"I love what I do and it was very pleasing to get the [New Year] accolade, which is largely due to the dedicated and professional people I've worked with over the years."
Dr Royal recalls Whitireia in the early days.
"It was called Parumoana Community College before the name change. In August  we had 143 students signed up to start the next February, so we had to set it all up pretty quickly. We were a week late in the end, boy it was hard work. But look at Whitireia now, it's just a fantastic place and incredible for Porirua, thousands of students pass through there."
His experience in the industry has provided him the ability to comment extensively on New Zealand's education system and he says it is failing Maori and Pacific children. It's no good tackling literacy and learning rates at high school; the work needs to be done at the preschool and primary school level, and more time must be put in by parents, he says.
"This has always been my concern, we have to find a way to increase participation and getting those success rates at school up. It starts with parents, we need to sell education to them because education equals a better quality of life in the future.
"Education opens up the world and gives you choices.
"At early age parents must read, read, read to and with children. Help with homework and encourage reading books and newspapers."
The focus for Dr Royal this year is setting up a "global university" via the World Indigenous Network Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC), of which he is the chairman.
He says the hundreds of millions of people around the world who are displaced due to political unrest or other factors are losing access to their own culture and language, and WINHEC aims to highlight this through journals, articles and academic study. He hopes it will eventually be able to influence government policies towards education.