A VISIT TO ST. JOSEPH'S
MAORI GIRLS' COLLEGE
like most of the famous Maori boarding schools, St Joseph's Maori Girls' College is a long-established institution with a very considerable history behind it. It is so old, in fact, that already there are at the school some great-granddaughters of early pupils, while the next reunion of past pupils, to be held in 1967, will celebrate the school's centenary.
How does a school with such a long pioneering tradition behind it, cope with rapidly-changing modern conditions: with pupils who are in many ways so different from their elders, and with the modern emphasis on academic attainment?
Opposite: pupils come from all over the country, including the Chatham Islands. These girls are, from left: Tanumi Ihaka, from Kaingaroa; Noeline Mariu, from Tokaanu; Cynthia Ryder, from Ranana on the Wanganui River.
Well, last year 10 girls at St. Joseph's sat for School Certificate, and 10 of them passed. One girl sat for University Entrance, and she was also successful. This year there are 19 sitting School Certificate, four sitting University Entrance, and one sitting Higher School Certificate. To say the least, this is a good record for a school with a total roll of only 130 pupils.
Has the Maori Education Foundation helped? Yes, we were told, very definitely: ‘Girls who need help can get it now. It has made a big difference. Partly because of this, and partly because of the way things are changing anyway, the girls are more ambitious these days.’
The school's original programme of study included the three Rs, homecraft subjects, and cultural subjects such as art, music and singing, as well as religious instruction. It proved to be so well balanced that today the curriculum is still substantially based upon it, though of course many more subjects have been added All girls take Maori throughout the school. Music is also of much importance; to the general
public, St Joseph's Maori Girls' College is best known for its magnificent choral work, and the excellent recordings it has made.
It was thanks to fund-raising concert parties and contributions from past pupils, together with a Golden Kiwi grant, that the school was able to open a fine new swimming pool recently. The school chapel, a beautiful building, was completed a few years ago, and at present other building plans are being carried out, including a new kitchen and laundry.
After they leave, many girls get good office jobs, or else go nursing, dental nursing or teaching: this year, for example, two or three will be enrolling at Ardmore Teachers' College, and the head girl, Cecilia Whatapuhou from Foxton, is going to study at Victoria University (another past pupil, Georgina Kingi from Taneatua, is at present in her second year at Auckland University). Teachers do much to help the girls find suitable positions.
The latest Education Department report, commenting on the valuable work that the Maori church boarding schools are doing, says that on the whole, these schools are still more ‘effective and satisfying’ for Maori pupils than are day schools, and that pupils at boarding school are less likely to leave too soon. The report points out that now that there are nearly 11,000 Maori secondary-school pupils, six out of seven of whom attend day schools, it is important that state day schools should become as adequate in caring for Maori pupils as are the boarding schools.
No doubt the regular, happy routine which is possible in a boarding school has much to do with the schools' success. But the most important thing about St Joseph's, as with similar schools, is that they care so much about their pupils, understand them so well, and do so much to help them.
It is hoped to publish articles on some other Maori boarding schools in future issues.
in hokianga 120 years ago, the artist G. F. Angas made a lovingly detailed copy of the carving illustrated on the opposite page. Angas' drawing, shown above, was published in 1952 in W. J. Phillips' book, ‘Maori Houses and Foodstores’.
Recently this carving came to light in the Auckland Museum. The only carving illustrated by Angas which has survived, it shows that his copy is on the whole an accurate one. Originally over the door of a pataka, the carving measures approximately 17 by 24 inches. In his hands the central figure holds a musket; according to writing on the back of the carving, this is Tamati Waka Nene.
Though Northland once had as many beautiful carvings as any other area, apart from burial chests and treasure boxes there are comparatively few of them that are still in existence. No other Northland carvings similar to this one are known to have survived.