A chapel site has been blessed at the Hukarere Girls’ School in Esk Valley, signalling a resurgence of confidence and achievement.
The roll has risen to 91 of its potential 120 girls, including 70 who board at the Hukarere campus.
General Synod members were welcomed to Hukarere on Wednesday evening, 11 May, before joining a service of blessing led by school chaplain Rev Winifred George where the new St Michael and All Angels’ chapel will be built.
After prayers to hallow the site for worship and study, long-time supporter of the college, Archbishop Brown Turei, turned the first sod, followed by Maui Tangohau (Board of Proprietors), Evelyn Taumaunu (Hukarere Girls’ College chair), Stephen Jacobi (Te Aute Trust chair) and Lelie Pearcey (Hukarere Girls’ College Principal).
“Thank you for coming to bless this space we have set aside,” said Maui Tangohau during the powhiri. “We look forward to this chapel becoming a source of spiritual sustenance for the girls.”
The new chapel will be warmed by taonga from the former St Michael’s, including tukutuku, kowhaiwhai panels and carvings designed by Sir Apirana Ngata and Lady Ngata. These have been stored since the former chapel closed.
Lelie Pearcey spoke at a dinner to welcome the synod, between rounds of stirring kapa haka and choral music performed by the Hukarere boarders, backed up by their teacher, Koka-hauwai Te Aowera and boys from their brother college Te Aute.
“I want to draw your attention to our girls’ academic success,” Lelie Pearcey said.
“The girls are doing pretty well. Actually they’re doing very well.”
“Our pass rate for the three NCEA levels is 100%.”
Te Aute Trust Board chair, Stephen Jacobi, then reported on progress to put both Hukarere and Te Aute College onto a more secure footing.
“I reported to you in 2014 that with the help of the St John’s College Trust Board the immediate financial future of the two schools had been secured.” he said.
“Now, both kura are well ahead of national averages for all students and significantly above for Māori students.
“Rolls have risen at both schools, with Te Aute College reaching 111 students (including 81 boarders) in 2016.”
Synod visitor Archdeacon Mere Wallace (Te Waipounamu) could see why the two schools’ intake had gone up.
“I knew a boy in the South Island who was in a terrible situation in a state school, where he was struggling against low expectations and getting into all sorts of trouble.”
“So the whanau pulled him out of there and put him into Te Aute.
“He went in there with his head down, and came out with his head up.
“It taught him to be proud of being Māori .”
Stephen Jacobi pointed to progress around the schools’ Māori Anglican character; chaplains were now fully resourced, teaching of te reo enhanced by the appointment of specialist teachers, and pastoral care assured by new social worker services.
Practical improvements to the facilities included new heating, water supplies, painting, new beds and mattresses and a refurbished sports field at Hukarere and swimming pool at Te Aute.
Stephen Jacobi explained that remaining challenges were to improve the management of the Trust’s assets including returns from ground leases on land owned by the schools, and to maintain the good business performance for the Trust’s two farms.
Jacobi also acknowledged the important role played by the St John’s College Trust Board which has to date, and with the concurrence of Te Kotahitanga and other authorities advanced $13.6 million to the Te Aute Trust.
“It is clear to us that the support of the St John’s College Trust Board will need to continue for some time to come,” he said.
Archdeacon Mere sees Hukarere offering similar value to Māoridom as the former Te Waipounamu Girls’ College in Christchurch.
“I could see the young wahine at Hukarere were strong and intelligent, and they get skills there that they might not get nurtured in outside.
“They have the reo. They have role models to look up to.
“They’re strong in their skin, and they’re strong in their God.
“At Hukarere, you are producing wahine toa, a new generation of Māori Anglican women leaders.”