Bright futures: Meet nine MIT graduates who pushed through barriers to learning

They’ve pushed through some challenges – disability, language barriers, births and deaths – to get here. But for nine graduands from Manukau Institute of Technology, today’s all about the parade.

On a sparkling, beautiful morning, this year’s Manukau Institute of Technology graduands parade around the town square led by City of Manukau Pipes and Drums. Whanau take snaps, shopkeepers break into applause,a car alarm screeches in celebration, and marchers sing that ode to knowledge-seeking, ‘Tutira Mai Nga Iwi’.

This is an intake that worked especially hard for its goals: financial realities meant many students worked part or full-time and/or parented while gaining their degrees, while others travelled far from home or studied in a language that was not their first.

In a speech afterwards, MIT chief executive Gus Gilmore points out that the tradition of the parade dates back to the 12th century, and adds: “The colour, the energy and the brain power in this room is overwhelming.”


Raghbir Singh, 22

Diploma of Engineering

How are you feeling today? Spending two years at MIT, and graduating with good grades and having a job (as a civil engineer for KiwiRail) – it’s great.

How will you celebrate? First of all I’m going to go to my religious temple to give thanks to God, then afterwards me and my friend will go party.

What difference have your studies made in your life so far? Leaving everything behind in India and coming to a new place was difficult. I didn’t know anybody in New Zealand. MIT provided me with a platform to learn my skills, and that skill set helped me to get a job, and now my future is bright.


Corey Tau, 25

Bachelor of Social Sciences (Counselling)

Would you like to specialise in any particular area? Drug and alcohol counselling is my passion. It comes from personal experience. I lost my grandfather, went off the rails and fell into some substances that are out on the streets. I know it sounds corny but one thing I learned from my dark experiences is that I’ve got to give back to the hands that helped pull me out of the darkness.

Describe your time at MIT. There’s a family-like culture. I appreciate it, being Mˉaori and being raised in that collective sense.

How has the course changed you? I feel like I really wake up with a purpose. I know I’ve got an army behind me, pushing me, and a wealth of experience that I’ve picked up along the way.


Anastassia Maihi, 28 & Jayceon, 14 months

Bachelor of Social Sciences (Counselling)

Why did you decide to pursue this subject?  I had a really troubled childhood. I was in CYF and so many other places, and it was horrible. So I want to work with children who have gone through abuse and help families gain the right skills to cope with the day-to-day things that cause hardship to families.

Has studying changed you? I feel confident in myself because I did it when I thought I couldn’t, and I can be a role model for my family and friends.

Did you take time out when you got pregnant? No. I fell pregnant in my third year. It was a surprise. I kept studying, so lots of late nights, lots of vitamins, drinking water and keeping healthy.

Lavinia Wanihi, 46

Bachelor of Early Childhood Education

Who’s in the portrait? My honey passed in December. He comes everywhere with us – we went to Kerikeri where he drowned and he came along. So I’m not really sad because my honey’s here with us.

Tell me about your korowai. This is from my son-in-law’s whanau. He’s married to my daughter Charlotte. His brother wore it for his graduation at MIT as well, and then my son-in-law wore it to his wedding in March, and now it’s my turn.

How will you celebrate? We’re having a big hangı and some adult liquid!

What are your plans after this? I might look at being a school teacher. A lot of kids come to school with attitudes: they need discipline, they don’t listen. You’ve got to start out with loving them first.


Lian Kairua, 36

Bachelor of Nursing


You spoke at the Māori graduation celebration – what did you say? The theme of my speech was appreciating our ‘whys’: the people who pushed us to get to where we are, and drove us to achieve.

What was your why? My biggest why is my three children.

What happens now? I’m looking to extend my study – to do post-graduate study. I just want to keep inspiring my family and my friends. A lot of them are looking into study now too, which is really cool.


Jessie Puru, 25

Bachelor of Creative Arts 

You’re a poet – what do you write? Freeform poetry about my life and growing up Mˉaori.

What are your plans now? I’ve just been offered an internship this week to help out an editor at a poetry journal, so I’m looking forward to gaining that experience.

How did you find the teaching here? Really good. We’ve learned to workshop other people’s work as well as finding our own voices. You work with amazing writers and get feedback on your work, and in the final year you work on your own manuscript. Before we started, I had never shown my poetry to anyone but I took the leap into this course and got in, and I’m glad I did.


Asinate Ngavisi, 30

Bachelor of Early Childhood Education

How has it been studying in your second language [Tongan is her first]? It’s very challenging. But I’m here, I achieved it with the help of my family.

What sort of pressures have you faced while studying? I’ve been a busy mum. I’ve been studying. I also teach at an early childhood centre in Manurewa. We’ve got church on the other hand. I’ve got a full plate! I come home in the afternoon, prepare dinner for the children, then put them to sleep, then I do my assignments and I sleep around four or five in the morning. I wake up at seven o’clock and make the kids’ lunches, get them ready for school, and then I go to work.

How will you celebrate? My husband surprised me with an air ticket so we will be travelling to Australia straight after the ceremony.


Louis Rodgers, 26

Bachelor of Information and Communication Technologies 

How are you feeling? Amazing. It’s been a long trip because I started off doing a certificate, then a diploma and now a degree. I started off at the Otara campus, then I started doing my degree here, so I’ve seen a change in not only the facility but the people too. The people here are pretty amazing.

How are you going to celebrate? Just having a family dinner.

How has studying benefited you? In my personal life I’m more confident. I feel like now I have a bit of knowledge I can bring to the world. I did an internship organised through MIT with a company in Parnell and now I work for Razor Web Design in Pukekohe.


Frances McCarthy, 32

Diploma in Business

You worked full-time as a flight attendant while studying. How hard was that? It was a big challenge. But knowing that you have to have something other than flight attending, I thought I’d give this course a go. Hopefully now I’ll do some further study, do a bachelor’s.

How has this experience changed you? I never thought I could do a bachelor’s because I’ve had learning disabilities – dyslexia. It’s only minor but it’s enough that my studies can go higgledy-piggledy if I’m not given enough support.

How will you celebrate? A good few drinks, maybe some dinner, maybe out with the boyfriend. My family are coming to the ceremony and they’re super happy.

This article was first published in Paperboy.
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