Education delay vexes teen mums
One year on, teen mothers Cassie Winikerei and Jessica Langley are still waiting for the South Waikato Teen Parent Unit to open.
Ms Winikerei and Ms Langley with their children Fayeth and Cohree can’t understand why the Ministry of Education has not given the unit the green light.
‘‘It’s supposed to be up and running now. I’m so frustrated because I turned 19 this year and the cut-off is 20 so that gives me one year left to get my qualifications,’’ Ms Winikerei said.
‘‘The rest of the mums are getting restless as well,’’ Ms Winikerei adds, ‘‘some of them have had to go into full-time work and others are finding units out of town to go to.’’
TCOSS Early years service hub coordinator, Ann Vosper, shares the mothers’ frustration.
‘‘We are being delayed by the Ministry of Education and have no idea why. I was given criteria to fill last year which was to find a venue that would house the unit and to find 10 teen mothers to sign up. We found both, then were told 20 mothers had to join then we were told 30, which was fine because we currently have 32 teen mothers registered.’’
Mrs Vosper is unsure how long the mothers will wait for the unit to eventually open.
‘‘Basically I have done all I can, the rest is now up to the ministry to decide. I feel for these mothers because they want to further themselves for their children. The delay has been too much for some who have packed up and left the district, leaving behind their support networks to further their education at other teen units in the Bay of Plenty.’’
Sources from the ministry have told Mrs Vosper that the unit won’t have an Early Child Care unit attached.
‘‘This makes a mockery of our understanding of what a teen parent unit is. The attached ECC unit is what makes going back to school attractive to our teen parents.
‘‘ They are able to remain involved in the raising of their child with them so close. Take this away and you lose your students.’’ Ms Winikerei is adamant if the ECC goes so will she.
‘‘If that’s the case I will have to go elsewhere, I don’t want to do that but what choice do I have.’’ Mrs Vosper said TCOSS and local community agencies have run courses for the mothers while the waiting continues. ‘‘We have had great support from Plunket, The Salvation Army, Sports Waikato, Raukawa Charitable Trust and SWIPIC, they have been instrumental with their support.’’
Mrs Vosper has hounded government ministers relentlessly about their plight to open up the unit’s door which has proved fruitful. Meetings organised by the teen unit steering committee will host Labour MP Trevor Mallard on November 26 and on December 3 Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment Tariana Turia, at the TCOSS offices on Maraetai Road to seek their support.
Mrs Vosper said the committee was delighted that two senior MPs had responded to their invitation to meet.
‘‘We’re looking forward to useful discussions with each of them,’’ she said, adding that local MP Louise Upston had been fully briefed on the situation.
‘‘We have also had a response from Hon Anne Tolley, assuring us of her interest. Unfortunately she cannot meet with us this year but she has asked the Ministry of Education to provide her with our submission as soon as possible.’’
LONG WAIT: Tokoroa Teen mums Jessica Langley (left) with daughter Cohree and Cassie Winikerei with daughter Fayeth are still waiting on the Ministry of Education to open the doors.