The story of Tematangarengare School is one familiar to the Pa Enua: a battle with falling rolls as people move to Rarotonga and New Zealand.
The other story of Tematangarengare School is a more inspiring one: its principal, Chris Story.
Story is one of three trained teachers. There is also a trained inclusive education teacher, with a relieving teacher on standby if a teacher is required to attend professional development in Rarotonga.
Last week, Story welcomed “Miss Mitiaro” Tajiya Sahay to the school. In December, the Cook Islands health and fitness instructor was named Miss Oceania at the Miss World pageant in London one of the six frontrunners in the international pageant.
“Thank you for visiting us again,” Story said. “You came when you started your journey, and now you are starting another journey.”
Story told visitors a brief history of the school, from recent years.
In 2015, when he took over as principal, the roll number was 52. The following year this increased slightly to 53: “this is when NCEA became available for kids to study online.
But since then he had traced a decline. In 2017 the registrations dropped to 49 kids, after the first cohorts of NCEA had gone through “and passed with flying colours and moved on to Rarotonga.”
One of these students is Tiana Haxton, the news anchor on Cook Islands TV, said Story proudly.
In 2018 the numbers decreased to 35; parents were travelling overseas for wedding, birthdays, reunions, events and taking their kids with them.
The student numbers stood at 36 in 2019, one of the pupils has now completed all her NCEA studies and is on a scholarship to Australia, another student is now attending 7th form at Tereora college.
Now, it stands at 36 again.
Despite the school’s small size, Story has been working into introduce new initiatives. One was the Cook Islands Maori class, as Story worked to include it as a 5th NCEA subject.
The schools’ song contains the chorus: “We are a chosen generation to be able to give thanks and praise to our God who is the highest educator of all.”
And that has been a message from Story over the past few years: “Rightfully our children are a chosen generation and therefore to help them not fall by the wayside, we as teachers, parents and guardians must support our children to be admirable.
“It is our duty as parents, teachers and guardians to be steadfast and assist them for a brighter future.”
Tajiya Sahay revisited her home island of Mitiaro to show her appreciation for their support during her Miss World campaign.
She shared her journey with the students, telling of her trip to London and how she had shared Mitiaro, Rarotonga and Cook Islands traditional culture.
Last year, she had spent time with the kids teaching creative arts, of which wearable arts projects were produced with very limited resources.
Last week, Sahay was presented with a woven pandanus mat from the school and parents.
The students shared their thoughts on their experience with Sahay’s visit.
Eaa toou manako no runga i te tere tangata o Maine Kuki Airani?
Arerangi Kimiora, year 7
I toku manako i te tere tangata o Maine Kuki Airani kua mataora ratou i te kite anga i ta tatou au peu e te kite nei ratou e te mou nei a Nukuroa i tana peu Tupuna mei ta te au mama i rave kua imenemene ratou e kua ura kia kore te tere tangata e varea ia e te moe kua turou mai ia ratou katoatoa, e kua tae kite taime tere vai kua aru atu matou ko tetai au pae tamariki e kua kake atu te Maine Kuki Airani e tona tere tangata ki runga i te ngai teitei e kua amu atu te au Mama i te amu tere vai kua rere pouroa atu ratou e kua aere atu matou mome vai i reira i te o ti anga te tere vai kua a no atu matou
Trinity Tuakeu, year 9
On the day Miss Oceania/Miss Cook Island arrived on Mitiaro, our cultural orator Julian Aupuni welcomed her in our cultural way.
She made her way on a truck with two girls Arerangi Kimiora and Trinity Tangatapoto covering her with the Iniao (cultural shield) from the sun, while the truck made its way to the Nukuroa Community Hall to have a kaikai.
The following day Tajiya and her family had the opportunity to go around the island to hear some of the old stories and swim at two of our caves called Vai Nauri and Vai Marere.
She was asked to be the first person in the team to jump into the water cave while the mamas chanted in our cultural way.
On Saturday night Miss Oceania held a show at the Nukuroa Community Hall, but then the show didn’t start early so everyone was still coming and sitting and waiting for her show.
About 7pm, she presented her dance, dress and talent; everyone in Nukuroa was impressed.
After her show, girls from Nukuroa did a dance item, she was very happy with our performance.
On the day she left, mostly those who knew her well were sad, but then the people of Nukuroa knew that she is busy with her job and her life.
Everyone said their goodbyes to Miss Oceania and our mamas sang a goodbye song.
Janmarie Taia, year 8.
Tajiya Sahay Miss World Oceania, was a good role model for us young girls, she was so friendly, and good to talk to, and she loves talking to us – the younger generation.
Ever since she came here, we have been so sweet and loving to her, she has given us young girls and boys confidence to dance and show people what our talents are and to prove to them that we will be able to lift our homeland’s name up above, and to do what is best.
Tajiya has done enough for us, she has already made our people happy, by becoming our Miss Cook Islands, and now it is our turn, to make our people happier every day and also to make our Miss Oceania happy too, she is our hero - Miss Nukuroa.