Access to transport boosts academic success in Southland

Young parents in Southland are driving towards academic success, after an innovative transport solution was put in place to address transport barriers.

Parents attending Murihiku Young Parents Learning Centre (MYPLC) have benefitted from a grant provided by Te Rourou, One Aotearoa Foundation to address some of the financial challenges faced by wāhine living rurally.

As the only teen parent unit in Southland, some young parents must travel large distances to receive the support they need, and transport is one of their greatest barriers, says MYPLC director Kim Scott.

“Our rural students were averaging just two days per week before this grant, and three of our students stopped coming due to transport barriers…now, our rural wāhine have the highest attendance rates amongst our young mamas,” she says.

MYPLC has utilised the two-year grant as an incentive for rural wāhine to attend education at the centre, covering the costs of their petrol, and assisting with car maintenance, insurance, and in acquiring appropriate licensing.

The increase in attendance also saw an upswing in academic achievement, with more students gaining NCEA qualifications and receiving subject excellence and outstanding industry awards, which showcases the programme’s success, Scott says.

“Our rural students took out five of our nine special awards at the end of 2023, and one also won the Academic Award for 2023. The grant made them feel valued, it showed them that others valued them and their learning. The engagement of these students because of others’ support and belief in them has been phenomenal and an unexpected benefit of this grant.”

Te Rourou, One Aotearoa Foundation Community Catalyst Stac Hughes says the impact of the grant highlights the importance of breaking barriers for young people for them to succeed.

“This is an amazing result achieved by a simple helping hand being given to these young parents. By breaking down transport barriers, these wāhine will be set up for their own future and the future of their tamariki,” he says.

Hughes says MYPLC is just one of many organisations facing transportation barriers in the Murihiku community, and Te Rourou is committed to exploring ways to address those inequities in order to create greater connections for rangatahi.