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EIT | Te Pūkenga student discovered his calling to become a social worker by going to church with his mother

June 17, 2023

Dean Bakkerus is in his third year of the Bachelor of Social Work at EIT | Te Pūkenga.

When EIT | Te Pūkenga student Dean Bakkerus left school, he was at a loss as to what he wanted to do, but going to church with his mother led him to realise that social work was his passion.

In 2020 Dean first enrolled in the NZ Certificate in Study and Career Preparation [Level 4] at EIT | Te Pūkenga, which prepares students (ākonga) for future study in Hauora | Nursing/Health or Te Hāpai Hāpori | Social Services or Teaching. He then went on to tackle the Bachelor of Social Work and he is currently in his third year.

“I was actually very oblivious to social work as a profession, up until my mum started working for Presbyterian Support East Coast. And then I heard about Family Works and got a little bit of a glimpse into what social work was.”

“Leaving high school, I was really stumped on what to do with my life like, a lot of teenagers coming out of school are. One day my mother took me with her to a church service. I’m not a religious person, but my mum was speaking, so I went to go support her. There was a guest speaker who spoke about social work and how it can affect the person.”

“Yeah, my passion started striking in that moment. And then I started looking into EIT and noticed that EIT offered exactly that. That’s how that started really.”

Dean, 23, says his study has not been without its hurdles, especially starting the Study and Career Preparation in the first year of COVID-19.

“It’s definitely been a journey. Lots of hurdles in regard to COVID and the cyclone, and things like that, but it’s been an enriching experience to say the least.”

Dean, who came to New Zealand from South Africa when he was eight years old, says there is one thing that stands out for him at EIT | Te Pūkenga.

“For me, it’s the sense of community at EIT. That’s the main thing that I always tell people when they’re thinking about coming to EIT. I’m like, ‘Well, you’ll get to know so many people, and there’ll be so many people who’ll have your back and support you. EIT really, not just the staff, but also just the fellow students and just everyone around campus, it’s a really welcoming place’.”

Third year social work students are sent out on placements to get practical experience and Dean has been at CCS Disability Action.

“It’s definitely been a learning curve, but I’ve learned a lot from it.”

As for the path he wants to take in social work, Dean says he is still keeping an open mind.

“I haven’t fully narrowed down yet, but at this stage, my niche should be working with the young people, the youth because I already work in a social service called Innovate Group. And we work with kids that are in Oranga Tamariki.”

Dean has no hesitation in recommending EIT | Te Pūkenga for future students.

“I would say, just go for it. Put your best foot forward, give it your best, ask for help and know that people have your back.”

“I would like to add that EIT is extremely embracing of the rainbow community. The rainbow group is making a huge difference and making it a really rainbow friendly place.”

Charlotte Chisnell, Principal Academic Staff Member and programme co-ordinator for the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) at EIT | Te Pūkenga, says: “Dean is a great ambassador for the Bachelor of Social Work, he brings knowledge, strength, humour and positivity.”

“He is passionate about social work and  advocates for the Rainbow community; the team are all very proud of his achievements.”