Something to contribute
A SHORT text message from a parent was all it took to make truancy officer Hale Vaihu’s Christmas.
It was just a couple of lines thanking him for getting the parent’s daughter back into school, but it was his favourite gift.
“It really made my Christmas. I feel like I have accomplished something in the job,” says Mr Vaihu.
“If I can save one kid, I’ve done well. I don’t aim to save the world.”
The teen was suffering from anxiety and depression and after going to school part-time she found it difficult to get back into it fulltime.
Her parents called Mt Roskill-based Auckland City Truant and Alternative Education Services, which sent Mr Vaihu to help.
“He encouraged her
to make the right choice, for herself, for her future and for her family,” says the girl’s mother.
Mr Vaihu has been a truancy officer for two years. He came to the role by chance after being asked to get involved with a student trying to enrol in schools after being expelled.
The school that accepted the boy asked Mr Vaihu to help him stay on track and he successfully encour- aged the student to stay in school.
After that he was offered a job as a truancy officer.
“I feel I have something to contribute,” he says.
And the sense of achievement he gets from encouraging a student to go back to their studies keeps him in the role. “I love it.” Mr Vaihu describes his own background as the “university of hard knocks” and he struggled through two years of New Zealand schooling as a Tongan youngster with limited English.
He tries to approach truant students in a way they can relate to him, although there are times when he is unsuccessful and the police have to step in to deal with a student.
Auckland City Truant and Alternative Education Services has three fulltime and four part-time officers, all of whom wear vests and carry identification when out on the street.
Manager Karyl Puklowski says the service mainly gets referrals from schools, but community groups and individuals can also contact it.
Officers won’t pick up the kids, but they will find out what school they are from and where they are supposed to be, she says.
To contact the service, phone 620-5220.
True calling: Truancy officer Hale Vaihu enjoys helping youngsters get back into school.