Students take a stand around Wai

Mangere College is leading the way as a Pro- Water school in South Auckland and the initiative is being led by the students.

The high school’s Health Council is taking a stance on health by mobilising teachers and their fellow students to make water the first-choice drink at school. Students have proposed to have a monthly water only day at the school.

The recent proposal comes after a series of changes the students have implemented in the school to activate wai accessibility, appeal and consumption within the school. These have included making a video on being Pro Water, posters and activities developed by the Health Council. The students have also worked with the Principal and Canteen Manager to look at how the school could look at providing non-sugar sweetened beverages.

Mangere College Principal, Tom Webb says he has been impressed with the students’ passion and commitment.

“I think the water only day is a great next step in our move to be a water promoting school and it really highlights the issue around healthy drinking.”

Health council member Olathe says one of the challenges they have faced is around students buying fizzy drinks from the surrounding shops and bringing it onto the school grounds.

“I think starting a Pro Water policy in our school could really affect [students and staff here] and their families outside of the school so they can take that into their everyday lives and decrease the statistics around diabetes in our community,” she says.

The Pro-Water movement within the school started in 2016 with Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura to empower a community led solution to wai and making it more accessible for communities.

Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura Lead, Rachel Enosa says Mangere College’s Health Council has been proactive in trying to find sustainable solutions for the school to become a Pro-Water environment.

“The collaborative approach encourages young people to become change agents by giving them a platform to explore and create better places for themselves and others to live,” says Ms Enosa.

“Supporting the Principal in the implementation of the policy ensures a safe and positive shift reflecting the students wants and needs around water.”

The school’s Health Council began its wai movement by surveying staff and students to explore their perceptions on water and its accessibility on school grounds.

Year 12 student, Zahra, says the council also mapped out where the water fountains were located around the school and it wasn’t all great news.

“Some of our peers complained a lot about the water fountains being perceived as dirty and unhygienic,” she says.

“We found some of the fountains were really disgusting and some didn’t have good pressure, so some people were putting their lips on it just making it disgusting when people went for a drink.”

With support from Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura, the high school was able to install a water cooler in the school gymnasium for students to have access to clean and cooled drinking water.

The student leaders have also designed their very own school Pro-Water logo and a slogan: ‘H2O is the way to go’ which, will be placed on water bottles and sold at the school.

Year 11 student Jordan says he hopes Mangere College can show other schools in the area what is possible and what they are also capable of achieving.

“I think it gives us an opportunity to better ourselves and to show students at other schools how to become Pro Water. It’s about becoming the role model, it’s exciting but nerve wracking as well.”

The students are in discussions with Principal Webb to run the first Water Only day in Term 4.

Check out the latest video of the students at Mangere College and their work around Pro Water.