He Huarahi Tamariki: A Chance for Children

Story by Hamish Howard

Faculty of Science, 2018


The statistics are grim. 135,000 New Zealand children (12 percent) living in material hardship. 290,000 New Zealand children (27 percent) living beneath the income poverty line. Ranking poorly amongst OECD nations, New Zealand’s child poverty has justifiably been established as a major social and political issue.

With all the bad press, troubling figures and heartbreaking stories, one could be forgiven for thinking that New Zealand’s situation is one devoid of real progress. This is not a story about child poverty or the hardship faced by many New Zealanders on a daily basis, but rather a story about people overcoming great adversity to ensure lasting progress within our society.

Dr Susan Baragwanath

After twenty years working in Europe as a teacher and administrator, Susan Baragwanath returned to Wellington in 1989 and accepted a position as Deputy Principal of Porirua College, one of New Zealand’s poorest schools.

During her first week in the role she found a fourteen-year-old girl giving birth in the school toilets. Despite this country’s legal right to a free education until the age of nineteen, enquiries and requests made to the Ministry of Education in the interest of the pupil’s continued education were dismissed. Childcare facilities did not exist in any New Zealand schools and distance learning was effectively impossible given material hardship and poorly administered systems. The girl quickly dropped out of the system.

He Huarahi Tamariki

He Huarahi Tamariki, (A Chance for Children, HHT), was founded by Dr Susan Baragwanath in 1995. HHT is a school for teenage parents from the greater Wellington area. The school provides a “second chance education” to students who are unable to complete their formal education due to pregnancy or the birth of a child.

“Because we are poor and brown, they think we are stupid” said one of the school’s first students. “Yes, they may, but only you can show them that you are not,” replied Dr Baragwanath. They got the message.

Now located in the Wellington suburb of Linden, HHT is a modern, purpose-built complex, complete with an early childhood centre to care for the children of students. Initially an offshoot of Porirua College, the school was first set up in an empty hardware store before immediate overcrowding forced a move to a disused bar in Cannons Creek.

Wellington East Girls’ College is now the host school to HHT, with further support provided by Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu: The New Zealand Correspondence School, The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand and other education providers. HHT has a strong focus on academic achievement but also offers pastoral care and an ‘enrichment programme’ including civics.

The school has a full time social support person, along with a visiting doctor, nurse and counsellor. Students are provided with free meals, transport assistance and additional support from a wide variety of agencies such as The Learning Shop, Plunket, Evolve, Ora Toa, WINZ (and the Young Parent Programme), Family Planning, Family Start, BirthEd, public health agencies and government agencies—many of whom visit on site.


HHT currently has a roll of approximately 40 students. To date, hundreds of students have completed qualifications and many have progressed to tertiary study, apprenticeships, or skilled jobs. The school honours board records 30 degrees and 23 diplomas that recognise outstanding student success. There are now at least 23 TPUs (Teen Parent Units) throughout New Zealand, inspired by the HHT model.

  • <p>Having received an Eisenhower Fellowship in 1994, Susan Baragwanath was awarded the Distinguished Fellow Award by the Eisenhower Fellowships organisation in 2015 - presented here by Colin Powell. https://www.efworld.org/news/news-in-depth/unlocking-doors-2015-annual-meeting-day</p>
  • <p>He Huarahi Tamariki. https://theambitionquestion.com/2014/03/19/of-course-you-can-do-it-he-huarahi-tamariki-school-for-teenage-parents-wellington/</p>

Where is He Huarahi Tamariki?

9 Matai St, Tawa, Wellington 5028, New Zealand