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No. 69 (1971)
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Maoris and Technical Education

Special Education Courses for Maoris

former head of the Department of General Studies at Wellington Polytechnic

This is the third of a series of four articles on technical institutes and the chances for job training they provide.

Technical institutes — also called polytechnics — have grown so fast in the last ten years that they are now about one third the size of our universities. Because of this they now offer many new training courses that were not even envisaged a few years ago.

Special courses for Maori youngsters, particularly those from rural areas where job opportunities are scarce, have proved very successful.

Five polytechnics, in Auckland, Hamilton, Petone, Wellington and Christchurch, have started courses covering a wide variety of trade skills. They also have courses which prepare students for employment in cities, or which introduce them to jobs like hotel restaurant work.

The main reasons for running these courses are that many young Maoris have found difficulties in getting apprenticeships. or in adjusting quickly to the move from country to city, with its very different type of life.

Some have been handicapped educationally because of the shortage of trained teachers in rural areas. And many have found it hard to get much information or advice about jobs open to them in the city. Vocational guidance officers are spread only thinly through country areas, and many teachers don't know much about some of the new developments in industry and commerce.

The Hunn Report of 1960 and the Education Commission of 1962 strongly urged the starting of special courses to help young Maoris overcome these handicaps. They didn't want special priveleges for Maoris: they wanted to give young Maoris equal educational opportunities.

Technical institutes, working with the Department of Maori and Island Affairs, helped with the creation of the first trade training schemes. The success of these led to more trades being added to the scheme, and later, to other courses aiming to help boys and girls who could not be included in the trades courses.

As a result, many young Maoris have been thoroughly trained in the trades. Employers compete for the successful students, and a big group of well-qualified Maori tradesmen is being built up, men who are acting as an excellent example to the young.

A new idea — pre-employment courses

Picture icon

Frederick Baker. a motor mechanic trainee at Christchurch Technical Institute in 1968
National Publicity Studios photographs

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— was tried at the Wellington Polytechnic in 1966. This was to give help at the point where the 17- or 18-year-old boy or girl first moved into a city.

The courses aimed to provide advice on jobs available, show youngsters how to cope with the urgencies of city living, and improve some of the basic skills of speaking in formal situations, and writing. Hostels were provided to give them at least one year in which they would be secure and not have to worry about finding suitable accommodation.

The value of the courses has been widely recognized, and similar schemes are now held at the Auckland and Waikato Technical Institutes. Hopes are held that the same sort of course may be able to start in Christchurch in the next year or so.

But these are still useful only to a limited extent. They can't help all the youngsters who need help.

They do, nevertheless, serve a valuable purpose. But nobody claims that they solve the problems of Maori youngsters with inadequate educational qualifications finding good jobs in cities.

Another new development has been an experimental pre-nursing course at the Wellington Polytechnic in 1969. This aimed to prepare girls who had School Certificate for the full three-year training schemes run by hospitals.

Nurse training is long, intensive and tough. Only a few more than half the girls who begin training ever become qualified nurses. Some girls, therefore, need more specific preparation before they actually begin training.

So in 1969 the Wellington Polytechnic, with the help of the Department of Maori and Island Affairs, began a pilot course with five Maori girls.

For four months in the early part of the year they learned study skills, improved their English, and brushed up on the type of mathematics most useful to nurses.

They visited hospitals, saw the work done by the Health Department in the community, in factories and homes. They also saw some of the special problems facing the aged, and crippled and handicapped children.

The girls became familiar with the vocabulary of nursing, with the daily life of hospitals, and with the working of the country's health services. They also gained a sense of confidence about their ability to cope with the long training period ahead.

In 1970 the Polytechnic and the Department hoped to continue the course on a bigger scale but for a variety of reasons insufficient girls applied.

Next year the Polytechnic again hopes to hold the course. Strong support has come from the Department of Health, and from many hospital matrons. Efforts will be made to open the course to Pakehas as well because many of them could benefit equally as much as Maoris.

The course isn't confined to girls. Boys can enter, but at present few realise the careers possible for them in nursing. Overseas, many male nurses are now found in hospitals and the health services.

Nursing is changing; more skill and knowledge is required. The traditional picture of the nurse as a gentle woman soothing fevered patients with cold compresses is now well out-of-date.

A new venture this year is the starting of short three-week courses for Maori girls wanting to work in hotel restaurants.

The first of these are being held at the Auckland Technical Institute in co-operation with Maori Affairs and hotel interests. They give basic training in serving at table, dress and deportment, some knowledge of foods, and advice on how to cope with the public.

Though all these courses were designed deliberately to overcome an educational need for some young Maoris, they are now proving to have another advantage. They are demonstrating the value of new methods of training for all young people.

Trade training on the intensive two-year full-time pattern has given a boost to ideas for new pre-apprentice training schemes for all apprentices. Trials are likely to be carried out with these in the carpentry and motor mechanic trades next year. The ready acceptance of these new schemes by employers has undoubtedly been influenced by the tremendous success of the Maori trade training schemes.

In five or ten years time I hope that the need for special courses for Maoris will decrease — that with better educational chances in primary and secondary schools

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Maoris will have real equality of opportunity.

But till that happens they are very necessary.

They introduce the young boy or girl from the country to new jobs, they make them aware of their ability to cope with new skills, and they give them added confidence.

New League Branch

A new branch of the Maori Women's Welfare League has been formed at Manunui. An early meeting of the organising committee was attended by Mrs Rumatiki Wright, Hamilton, who outlined the activities that could be undertaken by a league.

The branch got under way during November, with Mrs A. Leadbitter, wife of the resident police constable, as the first president. The study of Maori arts and crafts will be one of the main activities of the new League which has already instituted action song classes.