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11 November 2022

Education takes flight as Manihiki and Penrhyn learners graduate for first time

Saturday 2 March 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Education, National

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Education takes flight as Manihiki and Penrhyn learners graduate for first time
The Cook Islands Tertiary Training Institute (CITTI) 2024 graduation and Kings Representative Sir Tom Marsters and Lady Tuaine Marsters. MELINA ETCHES/24022906

The Cook Islands Tertiary Training Institute (CITTI) is expanding its reach to offer accredited qualifications to learners in the Pa Enua, with this week’s graduation ceremony celebrating the achievements of students from Manihiki and Penrhyn.

For the first time learners in Manihiki and Penrhyn enrolled into an accredited qualification in the CITTI, opening the doors for tertiary opportunities in the northern Pa Enua.

Seven learners in Manihiki graduated on Thursday with a New Zealand Certificate in Building, Construction and Allied Trades Skills (Level 3). They are Thomas Elisa, Emily Heather, deputy mayor John, John Koteka, Tuainengaro Napara, Wireless Pupuke and Benjamin Uea.

They were joined by Tini Ford, Ngereteina George, Natt Joseph, Paterongo Maretapu, Victor Niukore and Apera Williams from Penrhyn island.

Deputy mayor John flew into Rarotonga on Tuesday in time for the graduation ceremony at Te Are Kariori (National Auditorium).


Deputy Mayor John from Manihiki (centre) graduated with a New Zealand Certificate in Building, Construction and Allied Trades Skills (Level 3), his wife Emma (left) and Anna Rauru (right), attended the graduation. MELINA ETCHES/24022936

He was “happy” to receive his certificate alongside over 100 other students.

“I’m happy … this is my first time to get a certificate, I want to do some more papers,” says 36-year-old John.

Anna Rauru, former principal of Manihiki School, was proud of all the learners on the island who had enrolled for the first time and had persevered to complete their courses.

Rauru says the Manihiki learners were confident with the practical side of the course however they had struggled with the theory side since it was written in English.

She would translate the language and explain the theory in Māori so the learners could grasp and understand the questions.

“For most of them, they had left school in Grade 6 and stayed on their island working to help their families and this was the first time they had earned certificate qualification, so it was quite emotional for them and their families.”

The remaining Manihiki learners received their certificates on the island.


Tania Morgan CITTI Director (left), Minister of Education, Vaine “Mac” Mokoroa and Ministry of Education representative Sanjinita Sunish. MELINA ETCHES/24022929

In her opening address at the graduation ceremony, Tania Morgan, director of CITTI, said they are grateful for the learners in Manihiki and Penrhyn.

“We have been able to build on those opportunities for 2024 and include Rakahanga and Pukapuka into the mix, alongside our Southern Pa Enua deliverables in Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Mangaia, Atiu and Mauke,” said Morgan.

“As an institute we are committed to serving the needs of our country and are honoured to do so.”

She acknowledged the stakeholders, tertiary partners from New Zealand, Minister Vaine “Mac” Mokoroa and the Ministry of Education, Cook Islands Tertiary Training Institute, and the graduating cohort of 2023, who received their certificates this week.

Morgan also thanked the CITTI staff for the many hours they have worked tirelessly to ensure that there is a learning environment that honours the commitment of the graduands.

“For pushing through and accepting the challenges, even when the easy answer would have been ‘no, we can’t do it’. You have helped re-ignite the confidence our community has in us to deliver.”

Morgan said for some, the graduation is a formal academic recognition of the skills they already possess.

“There is a sense of pride we feel when we see our learners returning back to formal education, as we know for many, it has been years since you were last in a ‘classroom’ setting.

“For others, this is a continuation of your learning journey and an opportunity to develop new skills as you navigate through life.

“Regardless of what has brought you to the Cook Islands Tertiary Training Institute, do know that we are extremely humbled that you have chosen us.”


Tina Upu, Jimmy Teokotai, CITTI graduates Haeley Marona Teokotai and Sarah Enoka. MELINA ETCHES/24022942

Haeley Marona Teokotai from the Ports Authority was thrilled to have achieved her goal of a New Zealand Certificate in Business (Introduction to Team Leadership) (Level 3).

“I felt excited knowing that I had put the time and effort into my studies and yes, I’m continuing my studies starting in July, in Business Administration and Technology Level 4,” said Teokotai.

Georgina Short Willie from CITC was also stoked to have completed her certificate in a New Zealand Certificate in Business (Introduction to Team Leadership) (Level 3), and is keen to build on her tertiary qualifications.


CITC graduates in the Cook Islands Tertiary Training Institute (CITTI) 2024 graduation. From Left: Georgina Short Willie, Minna Willie, Matarii Hasse and Corina Manuela. MELINA ETCHES/24022940

“I felt emotional at the graduation since I really didn’t think it was a big deal, until I arrived and saw everyone else with their gowns on,” said Willie.

“I'm proud of myself and this is definitely a push to continue to do the next level,” she said.

Teariki Purua, the learner representative, had the honour of delivering the closing remarks.


Teariki Purua, delivered the Closing Remarks on behalf of the Learner Representatives. MELINA ETCHES/24022949

“Be proud of yourselves for making progress in your live, work places, goals and so forth,” he said.

“We all need time to relax, to think and meditate, to learn and grow.

“If we don’t take time to sharpen the axe, we will become dull and lose our effectiveness.

“We all need to take a break from our busy lives, busy schedules from this and that, from here and there, from high and low, from near and far … we need to stop, look and ascertain whether we are advancing or falling back.

“I confused activity with productivity, always on the go all the time, but found myself going around in circles.

“Being a manager in my workplace I thought I had everything in the bag, not realising I was losing effectiveness because I was doing the same old things every day…”

Purua remarked that he never thought he would go back into a classroom again.

“I’ve achieved my dream, and these courses have made me realise that we are always learning.

“Things are not the same as they were. The world is always changing, time is moving fast and we need to adapt to these changes.”