Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki - the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) together with the Minister of Education the Hon. Vaine (Mac) Mokoroa hosted the visiting Te Akaruru'anga o te Ipukarea - the Victoria University of Wellington Cook Islands Association (VUWCIA) yesterday morning at the Offices of Minister Mokoroa.
Led by current VUWCIA President Tehere Koteka, the visiting group of 20 tertiary students of Maori and Pasifika descent are current students at Victoria University of Wellington with studies spanning a variety of fields from the arts, to political science and law, sport and indigenous studies, commerce, science and medicine with a number of students currently completing postgraduate study.
Motivated by their participation in this year's Ta'okotai'anga (the annual gathering of Cook Islands tertiary students across New Zealand tertiary institutes) held in July and this year's theme of "atuitui au ki te oneone o taku ui tupuna - connect me to the soil of my ancestors" - the students had fundraised to travel to Rarotonga where they've delivered a number of initiatives aimed at encouraging tertiary studies uptake by Cook Islanders.
Speaking on behalf of VUWCIA during yesterday’s engagement, Ms Koteka spoke of VUWCIA’s determination to travel to Rarotonga and share their respective tertiary studies experiences as a means of encouraging Cook Islanders to take up higher learning opportunities.
VUWCIA is visiting Rarotonga from 29 October through to 7 November and as of yesterday's hosting, had visited a number of schools on Rarotonga, donating a range of teaching and learning resources sourced as part of fundraising initiatives by VUWCIA over recent months.
VUWCIA also delivered a tertiary pathway expo at the Punanga Nui markets on Saturday, distributing information on tertiary studies at Victoria University and facilitating a number of education activities to illustrate study options and preparatory work.
VUWCIA are staying at the Atiu Hostel and will continue to accommodate drop-in sessions for students and parents seeking advice on taking up tertiary studies, including application processes and tips to smooth the transition to studying and living in New Zealand until their return to Wellington.
Through the Cook Islands High Commission in Wellington, MFAI continues to cultivate strong relationships with Cook Islands tertiary students in New Zealand, particularly through the student associations across New Zealand, including VUWCIA.
The High Commission administers funding support of $15,000 towards the annual Ta'okota'ianga gathering and provides various pastoral and student empowerment and leadership support as requested by students throughout the year.
"Ta'okota'ianga, conceived by Cook Islands tertiary students studying in New Zealand more than four decades ago continues to nurture the umbilical cord between our homeland and our tertiary students in Aotearoa," said MFAI Secretary Herrmann.
"Significantly, Ta'okota'ianga cultivates an approach to student empowerment and leadership shaped by our cultural values. As far as we know, this visit by VUWCIA is the first of its kind and we're very proud of our students who in addition to the demands of their studies and the financial challenges that come with, are giving back to our homeland through sharing of their tertiary experiences as a means of inspiring the next round of students.
“The aspirations as shared by our students yesterday, particularly as relate to employment within our homeland on graduation, serve as reminders to our government of the leadership and resources required to better support the retention of Cook Islanders currently within our workforce, and recruitment of our Cook Islands graduates into the future."
Also in attendance at yesterday's hosting was Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, of Finance and Economic Management and former VUWCIA member, the Hon. Tingika Elikana, and French Polynesia Senior Advisor of International Transports and Telecommunications, Hironui Johnston.
The Ministry of Education (MoE) administers the Cook Islands Government tertiary scholarship scheme and have called for expressions of interest from “suitably qualified Cook Islanders and Permanent Residents who hold a current New Zealand passport residing in the Cook Islands”. The MoE can be contacted at [email protected]