Despite being closed for 19 years, over 300 students have registered their interest in enrolling at Hato Tipene (St Stephen’s College). The St Stephens Old Boys' Association has been working collaboratively with St Stephens and Queen Victoria Trust Board to reopen the historic Māori Boarding school.
The school closed its doors in 2000. An annual general meeting in 2018 confirmed the school would reopen in 2020.
At this stage, the school will not be opening its doors next year, however, former student Te Kani Kingi (Ngāti Awa) says, the reopening process, is well underway.
"Next year we will begin mapping out how we plan to open St Stephens. The main focus of this school is education and that is what Māori parents are requesting."
Since confirming the schools return, St Stephens Old Boys worked with the trust board to form a Kāhui Rangatira group. The group comprises of prominent Māori leaders, past and current politicians who attended the school.
Their role will be to deliver their proposal to the government in the coming months. Their hope is that the government will support their goals.
"The first thing we want to do is to talk with the board, the past pupils of Tipene, the Ministry of Education, Māori Ministers to help us re-establish this school. We have a lot of work ahead of us next year," Kingi says.
While the values of the school remain the same Te Kani says the new school will be designed to cater to this generation, to help young Māori boys flourish in the education, sports, religious and Māori environment.
"Despite keeping the old name Tipene this is a new school, it's a school for the boys of this day and age. There are four main outcomes we are looking at and that is education, sports, religion and Māoridom."
Kingi believes that mainstream schools may not be the best option for young Māori in this day and age and with the reopening of St Stephens he hopes this will become another option for those young Māori.