Sifa’s story

“I love my job.”

Sifa is a SWiS/MASSISS worker who works at Manurewa High School, supporting students throughout their high school years

“I love my job and while it can be challenging, every time I help a student, it reminds me why I love it so much,” enthuses Sifa. However, he says that now, more than ever, many of the kids he sees are struggling because their basic needs are not being met.

“So many of them are coming to school today without having their basic needs met. On top of this, they’re dealing with complex social issues, for example social media,” says Sifa.  “When I went to school, if you’d had a rough day, you could try and put it behind you. Today, if a student is being bullied, teased, or mocked it’s much harder for them to escape it. Two years on from Covid, we still have kids who are too anxious to get out of the car.”

Sifa says he is lucky to work at a school that prioritises the wellbeing of students. Manurewa High School provides a breakfast and lunch club, as well as a uniform fund, plus the library is open before and after school so students can complete their homework at school. “All of these things add up to make a difference in supporting students to attend school and ensure they’re capable of learning” he says.

“These kids have enough food in their bellies, they’re attending school and they’re learning. The impact of these things will transform the rest of their lives.”

However, there are pressures on these services as social housing develops and more families move into the area. “This year we had 500 new students enrol in Year 9. A number of these have moved to New Zealand from Tonga and are living with family. They know very little English which makes it harder for them to settle at school,” he explains.

As a Tongan, Sifa can work closely with these families to ensure their children enrol and attend school. “Many of them have moved here to give their children a better education, but when they arrive it is often more difficult than they thought. Even simple things like not being able to afford the school uniform can jeopardise their education. If they don’t have a uniform, children will skip school.”

“Fortunately, we have established a uniform fund which I can refer students to, which has been really helpful,” he says. Sifa recalls a recent example where he was able to take students to the uniform shop and get them fully kitted out. “The kids walked that bit taller, and their parents were so grateful. Now, they’re attending school.”