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Awatapu College Affirmation Ceremony

by Ngahuia Hawke, in-school facilitator

Our affirmation ceremony began at 6.45am. About 90 people, including college staff and community members, gathered on the school lawn for what became a very, very spiritual and moving ceremony.

It was begun by Blackie Tohiariki, a committed whānau member of our school who is a parent and ex-teacher. Along with our kaumatua, he explained that the reason for our gathering was to affirm Awatapu College’s ongoing commitment to achievement by our Māori students.

Blackie then dug up a small part of the lawn, calling it a miniature hangi pit. We each took a handful of earth that Blackie explained would be the seed we would each plant. Holding the earth, we whispered our aspirations as teachers for our students. We were then asked to blow gently on our handful of earth and bury it back into the pit.

With 90 people having done this, it made our little patch of earth very valuable. As Blackie said, "When you drive past this spot say ‘Yo’ or ‘Kia ora’, and no doubt our good thoughts and aspirations will help to drive a good day at work!"

Blackie and our kaumatua ended the ceremony with waiata and karakia.

Special breakfast

After the ceremony, we assembled in our school canteen for our special breakfast. It was wonderful. Better than any hotel breakfast. People were able to sit and talk with staff and others alike.

Towards the end of breakfast, we had people speak, including Cathie Bull (Te Kahaua project co-director), Denise Tohiariki (our whānau Tautoko chairperson) and Judith Alach (chair of the board of trustees). I mentioned how overwhelming it was to have so many staff attend. (I'm sure the special breakfast had something to do with it!)

I suppose you had to be there to capture the true essence of the affirmation ceremony, but it achieved its purpose, which was to ensure that there will be no looking back from the Te Kauhua project. The bar has been raised at our school, and it is up to us to sustain the momentum and enthusiasm.

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