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New name brings pride

Puawānanga Wairarapa Young Parents; back: Olivia Pirimona, Brooklyn Walker and son Manaia, TeRangiwhakawaitau Ihaia and son Zion; Front: Wiki Rimene and son Andreas, Ari Smith. PHOTO/TOM TAYLOR

Story by Tom Taylor

A name change has Wairarapa’s young parents proud to talk about their place of learning.

The Wairarapa Teen Parent Unit [TPU] has formally changed its name to Puawānanga Wairarapa Young Parents in the culmination of a three-year project.

Puawānanga catered to parents who wanted to continue their education in a supportive environment. Learning took place in a classroom on the grounds of Masterton’s Mākoura College, with a daycare for the students’ children next door.

Students said they disliked the former name of their school for several reasons.

They said the word “teen” did not reflect that students could be up to 20 years old, and felt the word “unit” carried negative connotations, with one student likening it to a prison.

“We’re equal to everyone else, so we felt that ‘unit’ didn’t fit us,” student Ari Smith said.

“It sounded like we were in the wrong for being young parents.”

Teacher Prue Harawira-Smith said that the name Puawānanga had much more meaning.

Puawānanga was a species of native clematis that the school had planted to grow up the sides of its building.

“It goes through a period of dormancy over the winter, which you can liken to a mum going through a period of change,” Harawira-Smith said.

“Then once the spring comes, it puts out new growth quickly, seeking light. We liken that to education.”

Pua also meant “to bloom”, while a wānanga was a place of learning.


“We do change in a lot of ways, but we still have the opportunity to learn,” student Brooklyn Walker said.

Brooklyn and Ari had been at Puawānanga since last year, joining halfway through the name-change project.

Harawira-Smith said that the process had been more involved than students initially realised when they suggested a change three years ago.

The school consulted with former students, staff, community members, and iwi on the change while each new group of students continued to develop the concept.

“Our main focus was doing everything as a team,” Ari said.

The students had an arotahi [project-based learning] class each Wednesday, in which they worked on the name change and planned renovations to the school site.

Among the improvements was a new waharoa [gateway] to welcome guests on to the school grounds, which students thought of as their marae.

The waharoa now served as the main entrance to the school and the daycare, with new concrete paths leading to each facility.

“Everyone comes through here, which means there’s more a sense of togetherness,” Harawira-Smith said.

The Ministry of Education funded 24 teen parent units across New Zealand.

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