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Headmaster’s legacy alive at Apii Avarua

Monday September 26, 2016 Written by Published in Local
Papa Mana Strickland is an inspirational figure in the history of Apii Avarua. 16091501 Papa Mana Strickland is an inspirational figure in the history of Apii Avarua. 16091501

As AVARUA School prepares to celebrate its 100th year in the Cook Islands, this week Cook Islands News looks back at one of the school’s most famous headmasters, Papa Mana Strickland.


Strickland was headmaster of Avarua School from 1955 until he became Minister for Education in 1964.

Recalled by many as a dashing young school teacher, Papa Mana was a Raitu or a Seventh Day Adventist.

Born on Mangaia on June 22, 1918 to John Kenneth Cameron and Kitimira Henry, Strickland was adopted by his grand-uncle Papa Reo Teariki Teraumana Strickland.

His registered name was Okaoka Mata Ata Te Raumana Cameron and he married Mauariki Ro'i'auri with whom he had seven children. They produced 15 grandchildren.

Strickland was a survivor of an older generation of people who dedicated their lives to the development of education in the Cook Islands.

Though his career began at the start of World War Two, his outstanding performance earned him the Sir Maui Pomare medal in 1934 and 1935.

He gained his teacher's certificate in 1939, a major achievement at a time when the colonial administration did not place high education for all Cook Islanders on its list of priorities.

Strickland taught in the outer islands for almost a decade in the 1940s, eventually moving to Aitutaki then to Rarotonga.

He went to New Zealand in the 1950s for a year's training course and was appointed to the post of first assistant to the Director of Education upon his return.

At Avarua he founded what later became the Morgan Shield Sports, and later still the Kumete Sports, the first organised annual athletics events for Rarotonga schools.

After leaving Apii Avarua Papa Strickland ventured into a political career full-time and played a major role in the movement towards self-governance.

Papa Strickland is known for his commitment to the use of the Cook Islands Maori language.

As Education Minister he was instrumental in extending the school leaving age from 14 to 16, providing access to secondary schooling to many young Cook Islanders.

He pushed for the inclusion of the Maori language in the curriculums, the development of social science with an emphasis on the national cultural heritage and the introduction of "new maths".

After his retirement from politics Papa Strickland was heavily involved in the compilation of the “Buse” dictionary.

In 1979 his book Say It in Rarotongan was published and from the 1960s he taught Maori at the two main secondary schools in Rarotonga and the USP Centre.

In recognition of his contributions to education, culture, politics, government service, the betterment of living conditions of outer islanders on Rarotonga, teachers, public services and the general public, and the welfare of young children of the nation, Papa Strickland was honoured with the Queen's Award of the Medal of the British Empire in 1989.

He passed away on December 8, 1996 at the age of 78.

Today his memory lends hope and a sense of pride for the students of Apii Avarua.


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