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High-flying futsal fan credits scholarship for landing dream role

  • Jeron Gwaite’e Manaaki scholarship

11 June 2024

Jeron Gwaite’e was the first member of his family to go on to tertiary study after leaving school, and he credits the Manaaki scholarship programme with helping him secure a life-changing opportunity.

Thousands of students from developing countries vie for the Government-funded Manaaki scholarships each year, with less than 500 applicants making it through the competitive selection process. 

A life-changing experience

The three-year scholarship covers full tuition fees, a living allowance, travel, and set-up costs, and it gave Jeron the opportunity to leave his home country for the first time by himself and study abroad, enrolling in the Civil Engineering degree programme at Unitec. It also gave him a new-found confidence in himself, and he embraced life in New Zealand and all it had to offer.

“It was a life-changing experience for me and an answer to my prayers,” he says. 

“High achievers in Solomon Islands aspire to obtain a Manaaki scholarship to be exposed to quality education outside their home country,” he says.  “Being one of the successful applicants gave me more self-confidence, and I used it as motivation to perform at a high level during my studies in New Zealand.”

After completing his studies in 2022, Jeron landed a role as a graduate construction engineer for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) based at the New Zealand High Commission in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands. He says having the credibility of the scholarship helped him secure the highly sought-after role.

“The Manaaki scholarship has not only helped me with my studies, but it also helped me get my first job,” he says.

“When the position at MFAT in Honiara was advertised, one of the requirements was to be a Manaaki scholar graduate. When I applied for the role, I used the experiences and lessons learned from my study in New Zealand to support my application.

“My current role gives me invaluable experience. I interact with professionals and stakeholders, assisting with the delivery of MFAT’s infrastructure programme in the Solomon Islands, particularly an airfields upgrade project in remote locations throughout the country. 

“I’m beyond grateful for the Manaaki scholarship,” he says. “It’s shaped me into the person I am today, and it’s a dream come true that I get to work for MFAT and can use the skills and knowledge gained from my studies to help in the infrastructural development of my home country.”

Unitec support is integral to success

Jeron also acknowledges the support and assistance of Unitec's teaching and support staff and their guidance throughout his study journey and in helping him secure his role. 

“They were easy to approach and very interactive,” he says. “Massive credit to my final year project supervisor, Don Houghton, who guided me with my development project throughout my final year.

“Unitec also has a great student support team that regularly checks up on international students' welfare, which was especially helpful during the Covid pandemic. The Pacific Centre and Student Support & Scholarships team were welcoming and supportive and helped to make my Unitec experience a fantastic one.”

An inspirational role model

An avid futsal player, Jeron was co-captain of the Unitec team during his time in Auckland and played for Wantoks FC. This Solomon Islands community futsal team competes in the Auckland Futsal League. During study breaks, he’d use the time to explore New Zealand, spending his time camping and hiking.

Sophie Aleke Fa’avae, the New Zealand Scholarships & Youth Guarantee Lead at Unitec, says Jeron stood out as a positive, personable, and enthusiastic student during his time at Unitec, acting as an inspirational role model for others who were considering applying for a Manaaki scholarship.

“Jeron was able to strike a fantastic balance between academic excellence and enjoying his time in Aotearoa New Zealand, making the most of his breaks to travel and see more of the country,” she says.

“He was actively involved in playing futsal and building connections through different avenues. Academically, he was always on top of his grades while also supporting his peers with their studies and assignments.

“We’re looking for well-rounded students who can represent their countries with pride when they come to New Zealand,” she says. “Jeron was a wonderful candidate, and his vitality and success have helped inspire others to follow the same path.

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