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Role model mum wins scholarship and sets sights on Bachelor of Nursing

20 January, 2023

Toloa Tertiary grant paves the way to full time study for Nita Tapa'atoutai

Nita has juggled work and part time study for several years as well as a busy family life

Equipped with leadership skills from her late father, strong Tongan values from her mother and a Toloa tertiary scholarship, Uinita (Nita) Tapa'atoutai is ready to tackle her next big challenge at Ara | Te Pūkenga.

After several years juggling studies, work and family life, the Oamaru mum-of-five will commute to Timaru this year to begin her Bachelor of Nursing studies full time – with the first year covered by a Ministry for Pacific Peoples funding grant.

Tapa’atoutai says her early life experiences caring for her grandmother in Tonga and her more recent community and healthcare work have shaped her nursing aspirations – but her determination to be a role model for her children is what really inspires her.

“They are the ones who motivate me to keep going every day. For several years now I have juggled two jobs and studied three programmes across three polytechnics while looking after my five children - one who has unique needs,” she said.

Her dedication to study over recent years has seen her notch up an impressive list of qualifications: Level Three Health and Wellbeing Community Service and a Level Four Community Facilitation apprenticeship through Careerforce, a Bachelor of Applied Management through Otago Polytechnic, a Certificate of Proficiency in Pacific Nutrition from Auckland University online and finally Ara’s Level Four Pre Health online, gaining her entry to Ara’s Bachelor Nursing Programme.

“I like how Ara allowed me to do my Pre-Heath part time. The way the programme is delivered was well suited to my busy lifestyle working in community healthcare in Oamaru hospital and as a peer mentor,” she said.

One of eight children, Tapa'atoutai came to New Zealand in her late teens. She says she is grateful for the work ethic demonstrated by her dad who juggled two jobs to care for his family and for the nurturing of her mum.

“She instilled in me the key values of Faka’apa’apa – respect, Feiveitokai’aki – sharing, co-operating and fulfilment of our mutual obligations, Lototoo – humility and generosity, Tauhivaha’a – loyalty commitment,” she reflects.

A keenness to make things happen and grab opportunities saw her apply for a Ministry for Pacific Peoples Toloa scholarship which aim to inspire and support Pacific students engaging with STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths.

The Ministry for Pacific Peoples established the Toloa Programme in 2015. It takes a multi-faceted approach to raising awareness and providing workforce development opportunities for its communities.

Hearing she had secured a $10,000 scholarship for 2023 brought tears of joy for Tapa’atoutai. “I was so happy, excited and overwhelmed knowing that my first year of nursing study will be funded,” she said, looking forward to a celebration for the recipients in Christchurch at the end of February.

“I am so excited for this journey and want to show my children that if I can do it while looking after them, then they can do anything straight out of school.”

The journey could be a long one with plans for her masters as the children grow older. “To dream is free so why not set your dream high,” she said. “My favourite words of encouragement are from the writer Roy T Bennett – ‘Believe in yourself. You are braver than you think, more talented than you know and capable of more than you imagine’”.

Plans are in place for Nita’s husband to get the children aged 5-14 to school before work, the after-school programmes are booked, and with the financial worries now eased, Nita Tapa'atoutai is ready to meet her classmates for 2023 and get to work.