Kuku Wawatai (Ngati Porou), Director Education and Maori Development at Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, resigned his position last week leaving behind a legacy of commitment and passion for education, specifically in improving Maori participation and success and engaging disconnected youth.
Mr Wawatai has most recently been at the forefront of leading the Polytechnic’s Youth Guarantee programme, a government initiative to help at risk young people into job training. His innovative and highly successful methods of reconnecting with disadvantaged youth has seen the Polytechnic lead the ITP sector in Youth Guarantee success and completions.
Dr Alan Hampton, Polytechnic Chief Executive, said Mr Wawatai had made a significant contribution to the Polytechnic’s development and performance. "Kuku has made the whole institution really think about how we fulfil our role as an education provider, understanding and responding to the learning styles of our students from a cultural and individual perspective. This has seen the institution make significant improvements in our success and completion rates across the whole institution."
The institution’s commitment to the principles of Te Waka Hourua, the twin hulled waka, exemplify the impact of Mr Wawatai’s initiatives in influencing how the Polytechnic goes about its business regardless of race or creed. Te Waka Hourua is a philosophy which encompasses taking all people on their learning journey together to the same place, providing the leadership, direction, resources, initiatives and passion to support all learners in their quest to reach their full potential.
With a career balanced heavily to working with both Maori and non-Maori disadvantaged youth, Mr Wawatai has also held positions with Te Whare WÄnanga o AwanuiÄrangi, and the Gisborne District Council and the Manukau City Council. He also has previous experience with current affairs having worked as a TV presenter and talkback host on Radio Aotearoa making him a natural with engaging with people from all walks of life.
Mr Wawatai grew up in the small town of Tikitiki in Waiapu Valley near Gisborne. His maunga is Hikurangi and his awa is Waiapu. He steps down from his position after eight years with the Polytechnic and is looking forward to taking on fresh projects with Ngati Ranginui in areas of health and wellbeing.
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