Graduate address: Chantelle Foketi
Chantelle Foketi used her Capable NZ journey to give disadvantaged young people a voice.
She graduated with a Master of Professional Practice at the November 2019 ceremony, where she spoke on behalf of Capable NZ graduates.
Chantelle is Managing Director of alternative education charitable trust Te Ara Poutama and the South Auckland representative on the Alternative Education National Body.
She works with some of the most marginalised and disadvantaged young people in the country and believes education is the enemy of poverty.
Chantelle told graduates alternative education is for students who can no longer attend a mainstream school. It’s generally unknown, under-funded, and under-resourced.
“Students in alternative education do not have a very loud voice and I have been humbled to be a part of giving these young people a voice for their future.”
She said her job was not a popular vocation. The situation would be the same for many of her fellow Capable NZ graduates.
“Due to the types of degrees and qualifications on offer, we are able to take our passion for something and produce something that can be formally recognised.”
As part of her studies, she interviewed a group of alternative education students who had done the extraordinary thing of achieving their NCEA Level 1 when our school system had told them that they weren’t good enough and didn’t belong, she said.
She asked them what had worked for them in alternative education that hadn’t worked in mainstream schools. They identified connecting with people in a classroom environment.
“But the biggest thing that these students identified was hope. Never before had these young people felt that they would succeed. Once they arrived at my door things began to change – they were able to achieve and for some of them that was the very first time that they had ever done that in a school.”
She said it was an amazing experience to walk into the classroom and tell her students that they could gain some credits.
“Suddenly you see that hope transform into dreams and that dream slowly becomes a reality through goal setting and taking practical steps to achieve that.”
Chantelle said it was an emotional experience to hear the students tell her their stories. She is thankful she can be a voice for them through the degrees on offer at Otago Polytechnic and Capable NZ.
She’s also thankful to be able to show policy makers and teachers that those young people do belong in education and are capable of achieving.