The student teachers at Nukutere College were three of 21 teachers in training, who have been on the island for a three-week placement from Monash University in Australia.
Nukutere College teacher Mr Rasmussen said the ceremony was special in that it was the first time the school had a farewell and a traditional haircutting ceremony at the same time.
Graduating student teacher Kyle Martin decided to get rid of his mop of dreadlocks, while also raising funds for Nukutere school resources, and $1215.20 was donated.
To the beat of the drums, dancing and singing, his locks were slowly cut off by teachers and students who had made donations.
Lui Nicholas was the first student to cut off a lock, followed by Manea Ave, under the watchful eye of school teacher Miss Savage, and the comment was made that it was too late by then, even if Martin had wanted to change his mind.
The final shave and tidy up came from Year 9 school student Anthony Heather.
“I hope the money goes a long way for the school,” says Martin. “I have been truly blessed to be here. I can’t describe this experience; it was too much. It has changed my whole perspective. It was everything about the people here, their religious background and how they bring that out, their cultural background. They have been like a family, and I have felt a part of it.”
Student teachers were spread around a number of schools including Arorangi, St Joseph School, Apii Nikao, Apii Takitumu, Apii Te Uki Ou, Nukutere College, Titikaveka College, Tereora College and Papaaroa School.
This year marks a 24-year partnership with Monash University and the Cook Islands Ministry of Education.
Also this year a new scholarship called the New Colombo Plan has been introduced to support students to come to Rarotonga on placement.
“The New Colombo Plan is an initiative of the Australian government aimed at increasing exchange and connection in the Indo-Pacific region for Australian university students,” says Christine Grove, Monash University lecturer, psychologist and Cook Islands International placement co-ordinator.
When asked what she got out of the placement, student teacher Lily Fent says “everything. I have learned that the teacher/student relationship is so important, a good relationship keeps everyone happy, and if everyone is happy then it is so much better for education and learning. The school and students just welcomed me completely and this has been a beautiful experience.”