Lotto win? An education is worth so much more

DION TUUTA
Last updated 08:06 17/12/2012

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OPINION: The 12th day of the 12th month of 2012 was viewed as significant by many people for many various reasons.

For myself it will be remembered as the day my wife and I watched our eldest daughter graduate from Victoria University of Wellington along with about 500 other graduates supported by friends and whanau.

It was a long day beginning with the Hui Whakapumau -the Maori graduation ceremony at Te Herenga Waka Marae where about 20 Maori graduates were honoured by the Maori faculty and marae.

The Hui Whakapumau marae graduation was originally designed to celebrate the completion of student degrees in a Maori way and the first ceremony took place in 1986.

This ceremony is run in accordance with tikanga Maori and allows Maori graduands to bring as many members of their whanau as they like to celebrate their achievement, as opposed to the official confirmation ceremony which is necessarily limited by the Michael Fowler Centre's seating constraints.

Our traditional culture places a significant amount of emphasis on personal humility in achievement, as demonstrated by the whakatauki "kaore te kumara e korero ana e tona reka" (the kumara does not sing of its own sweetness). The wisdom in this proverb advises that an individual's actions and deeds should be acknowledged by the community rather than by the individual performing them.

And that is what Hui Whakapumau is designed to do.

Attending a Maori graduation ceremony is a wonderful thing. It's a chance for the friends and whanau to acknowledge the hard work of our students.

And it is not a quiet affair. It is an event that is filled with waiata, karanga and haka as friends and whanau really get to show their pride and celebrate the achievement of their whanau members. And whanau is a word that appeared a lot during the day.

Attending the graduation ceremony underscored the importance of whanau support in assisting children to achieve their best - in whatever field they choose.

It was particularly uplifting to note the admission of four Maori scholars to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and even more so to consider that one of the graduates, Arama Joy Rata is of Taranaki and Nga Ruahine descent.

The majority of the speakers reinforced the key importance of positive role models in their lives who had supported them through their studies - be they parents and grandparents or teachers and friends.

I reflected on this as I watched my younger children watch their older sibling cross the stage to receive her degree.

I was one of the first in my family to undertake tertiary education.

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I remember being terrified at the time - thinking that university was something way out of my league. I viewed it as a foreign place where I would struggle to keep up. But like most things - with the support of friends and whanau - I adapted, learned and enjoyed the experience - which ultimately opened up life-changing opportunities for me and offered me pathways in life I might not otherwise have had. That is the power of education - in all its forms - whether it be university, polytechnic, high school, an apprenticeship or any other form of training. Education is the key to tino rangatiratanga and remains the key to Maori achieving our true potential.

Education has more power than any Treaty settlement, any Lotto win or any economic development strategy. Knowledge gives the individual true power to change their own lives and set in place a positive legacy for themselves and their descendants.

Funnily enough, that's exactly how I felt when I heard my 10-year old daughter tell me what she was going to do when at university when she got older.

In the space of one generation the idea of attending university had changed from some outrageous frightening idea to simply something that my 10-year- old just expects to happen as a natural part of growing up. That truly makes the whole thing worthwhile. There is nothing remarkable about my experience because I saw it repeated many times at the Te Herenga Waka Hui Whakapumau graduation ceremony on 12/12/12. And it was wonderful.

As we look to Christmas and the New Year, I would like us to reflect on the fact that the potential for achievement lies in every Maori child and young person in our country and this potential should be nurtured and encouraged.

May you all have a happy Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year.

Mauriora

- Taranaki Daily News

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