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100 years of education celebrated at Pokuru

Courtesy of Te Awamutu Courier
FITZELL descendants
FITZELL descendants with the painting of the original Kakepuku School which the family presented to Pokuru School at the centenary reunion. 095071AD

By Dean Taylor

Celebrations over the weekend for the centenary of Pokuru School featured a presentation from the family of the men responsible for the start of education in the district.

Descendants of John Fitzell Jnr and Snr presented the school with a painting, by Con Emery, of the original Kakepuku School.

In the early 20th Century, Mr Fitzell and his son farmed on Pokuru Factory Road. Settlers of the district petitioned the Auckland Education Board for a school, firstly unsuccessfully, then successfully provided they built the school.

The Fitzells took on the challenge, building the school on their farm and leasing it back to the Board for seven shillings per week, thus creating the first opportunity for formal education in that district. The school was built during 1906 and opened for the school year of 1907 with 17 pupils. In 1910 the Auckland Education board approved a permanent school, and in 1911 Kakepuku School closed and Pokuru School opened on its present site.

During its short tenure, the 24’ by 12’ (8m x 4m) building was also used as a local church, Post Office and hall.

TWO cakes, depicting the original Kakepuku School opened in 1907 and its permanent replacement, Pokuru School, were cut by the eldest former pupil Rangi Emery and youngest pupil Kalina Morgan (who started school just three days earlier). 095071BD

Three generations of the family have since attended Pokuru School, including the eldest former pupil, the younger Mr Fitzell’s daughter Rangi Emery.

Mrs Emery (95) started school in 1918. She was joined by many family members at the centenary to celebrate the milestone started by her grandfather and father. That theme was continued in the school production ‘Past, Present and Future’ written and performed especially for the event.

About 340 former students and staff celebrated the centenary. Formalities on Saturday included the Fitzell family presentation, speeches, photographs and a series of reminiscences from pupils, staff and board members.

The festivities shifted to Stewart Alexander Golf Club on Saturday night, and on Sunday the family theme continued when Father Graeme Alexander and Reverend John Emery conducted a church service.