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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 3. 1965.

Students Help Build Play Centre

Students Help Build Play Centre

From January 4 to 16 the second work camp organised by the New Zealand International Student Work Camps Committee of the NZUSA, in consultation with members of the staffs of the Education Department and the Maori Education Foundation, helped erect a play centre for the Maori community at Omapere at the mouth of the Hokianga Harbour.

The Committee invited each University in New Zealand to participate and the Australian Association to send two delegates. The party eventually comprised seven students from Auckland university, a Canadian studying at Canterbury School of Engineering, and a delegate from Sydney University and was able to proceed with the building to a stage from which the voluntary labour of local parents could finish the job with little difficulty, fitting roof iron, windows, and lining and painting the building.

The establishment of play centres is encouraged by the Maori Education Foundation, especially in the more isolated areas of the North Island, where Maori children have hitherto had to spend several months getting used to normal English sentences and extending and improving their speech before they are prepared for their school work (according to the schoolmaster at Omapere. Mr. Cyril Holland, they may be as much as nine months behind pakeha children). In the centres children play under the supervision of a trained local woman on two or three afternoons each week; mothers are rostered to attend and help while their children become familiar with books, stories, their surroundings, and practice their English.

Most of the local Maori community run small farms on hilly land with poor grazing on the sandy soil; some also tender for small contracts or fish commercially on a small scale. The majority of the younger adults come to Auckland to find employment in industry, leaving the children, the middle-aged and the elderly behind, sometimes sending their own children back to the grand-parents. About 300 people live in the school district.

Mr. and Mrs. Holland have fostered and maintained a strong interest in the play centre project, and the people have raised almost the full sum aimed at for extra materials and equipment — the Education Department had given permission for the dismantling and re-erection of a classroom from a disused school a few miles away.

Extra hands were called in for the heaviest parts of the job, namely the erection of large floor and wall sections, and a mechanical post-hole borer was used for boring holes for the foundation posts. The work which the work camp did alone (two or three local people and Cyril Holland worked almost the whole time) such as the laying out of the ground plan, the building of the under-structure, and the fitting of a new roof, required some ingenuity, and discussion to make good a lack of skill.