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Widowed Father of Eight Leads Way for Whānau 

(From left-to-right) Ginnae Parai, Tiwai Parai, Kyler-Renee Parai and Arielle Parai. Wintec
(From left-to-right) Ginnae Parai, Tiwai Parai, Kyler-Renee Parai and Arielle Parai. Picture courtesy of Wintec

As a young man, Tiwai Parai struggled at school. He suffered from a speech impediment and had difficulty reading, among other things. Though his patriarchal blessing urged him to consider his education, he felt that just wasn’t something he could do.

“I was too embarrassed to reveal my struggles,” Tiwai said. “At one point I did have someone at school who worked with me on my reading, but he had no understanding of the learning deficiencies I had so his methods didn’t work and only made my problem worse.”

“I sat at the back of class and everything went over my head. One year passed in this way, then two years until it had become a pattern. Eventually, it became a part of my identity: that I was not a learned person.”

This belief took decades to shift. “I heard the spiritual direction from our leaders to get educated but because I wasn’t a learned person I just didn’t take it to heart. I didn’t think it applied to me.”

And gradually something changed. “I wanted to change the direction of our family from struggle to success,” said Tiwai.

“I decided that I was not going to let this happen to my children,” he said. “I wasn’t going to let my barriers hold them back as well.”

Now this father of eight, and grandfather of eleven, has started a business degree at Wintech, along with three of his older daughters.

Leading from the front and the back, Tiwai also works full-time and actively helps with the day-to-day care of his grandchildren, to help support his daughters so they can complete their education quickly.

“They are the priority,” he said, “I don’t mind when I finish. I want to see them graduate.”

“Around our dinner table, the conversation is all about learning and education. We talk about assignments and tutorials while the younger kids are there listening. It’s changed the culture in our home.”

There are still challenges ahead but Tiwai presses forward living by the motto that changed his view on education forever:

‘Education is not about learning facts and figures, it’s about training the mind to think.’

The long, challenging road to education has given Tiwai a new-found determination to help others who are dealing with the same barriers that he faced.

“This is my time to help,” Tiwai said. “Because of what I endured I can discern those who are struggling, and I offer to help.”