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Student’s wife enrolled him in EIT Te Pūkenga and now he is graduating with diploma

August 17, 2023

CJ Pineaha-Burns (Ngāti Kahungunu) is graduating from EIT | Te Pūkenga with a Diploma in Te Reo Māori.

CJ Pineaha-Burns (Ngāti Kahungunu) delayed completing the final half of his Diploma in Te Reo Māori, so his wife enrolled him – now he is graduating from EIT | Te Pūkenga tomorrow (Friday 18 August).

CJ says he began his te reo journey as far back as 2013, completing the NZ Certificate in Te Reo me Ngā Tikanga [Level 4] and half of the Diploma in Te Reo Māori (Immersion) [Level 5]  before he and his wife moved to Australia. When they returned in 2019, his wife Savannah decided to study for her Bachelor in Māori Studies at EIT | Te Pūkenga.

The 28-year-old says it was important that he continued his studies.

“Te reo Māori was becoming so much more prominent in our house. All of our four kids go to Te Ara Hou, which is a full immersion Māori school. And so they were learning te reo Māori, my wife was in level six of her te reo Māori journey, and I was the only one in the house not on that journey.”

“And so, I got a phone call from EIT saying, ‘It looks like you want to enrol back into the diploma’. I didn’t know anything about it. It was actually my wife and my twin brother that rung them and told them that I wanted to be a part of it. And that’s how I got back in there. So I didn’t want to, I was pushed, and definitely grateful for that now.”

Te ao Māori (the Māori world) was a big reason for moving back home from Australia.

“It was a big part of what was missing when we were in Australia.”

His wife and twin brother Ethan will watch him graduate on Friday, and then next graduation, it will be their turn to walk the stage as they are due to both complete their Bachelor in Māori Studies at EIT | Te Pūkenga.

CJ says Te Ūranga Waka (Māori Studies) at EIT | Te Pūkenga has been so accommodating and supportive to him during his studies.

“Because I’ve got kids, they’ve helped me through that. And I ended up actually quitting my job recently so that I could go back to full-time study, because I did my diploma during night classes once a week. But when you’re learning te reo Māori, and you’re only doing it at night-times, it’s not enough. And because my kids were already in a Māori school, I needed to progress twice as fast, and I needed it daily. So now I’m full-time, and the whole dynamic of it has changed. It feels like I’m immersed in it all day now, which is perfect for my progression.”

“We’re all on the same page, and I can help them on their learning journey, and they can help me. We feed off each other now.”

While he may be graduating on Friday, his studying will still continue as he is enrolled in the Bachelor of Māori Studies.

While he has had other jobs in the past, including as a chef, CJ says he has finally found something he is comfortable in, and enjoying.

“It’s been an awesome journey. When they say ‘find something you enjoy doing’, I’m finally in that space. So I’ve just been offered a job as Kaiawhina (assistant) just going into level two classes and helping the tutors there. And that just helps me with my te reo Māori journey too, because I’m helping teach it.”

He joins his wife, brother and sister Desma Culshaw-Kaisa, who are all tutors at EIT | Te Pūkenga.

Pareputiputi Nuku, Pouarataki, Te Uranga Waka, says: “The Kahungunu whakataukī ‘Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini’ describes how achievements are not due to the efforts of one but of many as in the case of CJ and his talented whānau.”

“It isn’t uncommon to have students from the same whānau studying with us but so many and all at the same time, is quite rare. It is also very powerful. CJ is a great role model for his tamariki and our students.”