Home' Northern Outlook : July 3rd 2013 Contents 8 NORTHERN OUTLOOK, JULY 3, 2013
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New Zealand has the second highest rate of teenage births in the world, yet the average
age of first time mothers is 30 years. Being a teen mum means being well outside the
social norm and copping the stigma that goes with it. Kaiapoi's Karanga Mai, the first teen
parent college in the South Island, opened 16 years ago. Former college director Jenny
Hindin-Miller left the college after eight years with a desire to tell some of the
transformational stories she encountered there. CATE BROUGHTON reports.
Teen mums' learning takes off
CHANGED ATTITUDE: Renee Knipe and her daughter Ella-Rose. RIGHT: Hannah Cross and her son Hunter.
IN A small building in Kaiapoi
something extraordinary in edu-
cation is happening. In one half of
the building a group of 30 teenage
mothers are working to complete
their secondary education. In the
other half, their children are
being cared for at an early learn-
At lunchtime students recon-
nect with their children in the
early learning centre.
Renee Knipe,18, can be found
with daughter Ella-Rose, who is
propped up in a row of high
chairs. Feeding the tired 6-month-
old is requiring a bit of cajoling, as
the child alternates between
squeals of delight and tears.
Renee is quick to praise her new
They are very understanding,
but also have very high expecta-
tions. . .buttheyalsogiveyoua
lot of help. There's a lot of praise
and it gives you motivation to
Renee says before coming to
Karanga Mai she hated school.
She had been suspended from a
co-ed state school in Christchurch
for fighting. Getting pregnant a
little while later made continuing
her education there impossible.
Renee's change in attitude
towards education exemplifies the
difference a nurturing, supportive
type of education can make to
teenage mothers, according to
researcher Jenny Hindin-Miller.
Ms Hindin-Miller was the first
director of the college when it
began in 1997. She saw it grow
from an informal study group for
pregnant girls into the first South
Island teen parents' college.
Over the next eight years she
says she witnessed numerous
transformational success stories
as young women defied expecta-
tions and completed their secon-
dary school education.
In 2008 she left the school, but
her desire to share some of the
success stories led her to put them
into an academic framework''.
The ten young women she inter-
viewed for her PhD had been to
young parents colleges, and were
asked to reflect on the experience
and the difference it had made.
They all said they had no reg-
rets about becoming a parent as a
Ms Hindin-Miller said the
women had been given the sup-
port they needed to achieve.
Most had not enjoyed school.
But when they became parents
they felt they needed to do some-
thing. They went back to school
with trepidation but when they
got into the routine it was a nur-
turing, affirming culture.''
Karanga Mai director Lynn
Brice-Nicholson says students
often arrive lacking in motivation
and confidence, but soon realise
they will have a very different
At 14, Hannah Cross was preg-
nant and a new student at Kara-
nga Mai. Two years later, she is
clearly relaxed and confident in
her school environment and says
being a mother is getting easier.
While the difference in attitude
from the teachers was noticeable
from her first day, Hannah says
the practical help was critical.
Transport to and from home
each day, childcare and support
with agencies such as Work and
Income are part of the package.
Ms Brice-Nicholson says with-
out that level of support, study
would not be possible.
The school also provides a buf-
fer for the discrimination many of
the students say they experience.
All of the students interviewed
talked of the menacing stares and
nasty comments that come with
the teen mum territory.
I've been asked how old I am
and I've lied because I don't want
them to judge how good a parent I
am on my age,'' Hannah says.
Another Karanga Mai student,
Bekki Terry,17, mum to 6-month-
old Sage, said the feeling of being
judged by society was constant.
The attachment the students
have with their school is not so
surprising given their experiences
outside the classroom walls.
experiences have also given them
strength, Bekki says.
It does affect your confidence,
but it also makes me feel stronger,
and that we should all have the
chance to be the best parents we
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