At eight-years-old, Mele Koula Ahomana arrived in Aotearoa from Tonga with her family unable to speak English, which made school a challenge.
These barriers persisted through secondary school. But when she enrolled to study Early Childhood Education at NZMA, a Category One UP Education provider, she was greeted with tapa cloths and Pacific students and tutors – an encouraging environment reflective of her cultural heritage.
“The environment was a big part of helping me settle in there. It was such a welcome change to my memories of primary and secondary school – a trauma that was still lingering in the back of my mind.”
“Learning in an environment like this was hugely encouraging. When I graduated, it was all worth it. My parents were in tears and the joy in their eyes was indescribable. My Dad was glowing with pride, as I am the first in the family to gain a tertiary qualification.”
“Right now, I work at an early childhood centre in Pukekohe caring for children on the spectrum. This is a specialisation I would love to continue at university.”
“If I were to talk to my 16-year-old self now I would say Mele, do not give up. Continue your study. Aim high as this is not only for you, but also for your family, parents, and your own children. You can be a role model for them.”