When Mohammed Azam moved from Fiji to Rotorua for a teaching role, he started his life in a country he had never visited before.
The 29-year-old and his wife moved in June with the assistance of the Ministry of Education’s overseas relocation grant, which provides up to $10,000 to help teachers with the cost of moving.
Without it, he doesn’t think he would have been able to move.
“This grant is very helpful to us ... we don’t have many struggles while starting our life from scratch.”
Azam is one of 31 teachers who have received the grant and moved to the Bay of Plenty since September 2022.
It comes after Education Minister Jan Tinetti spoke at the New Zealand Area Schools Conference on in Rotorua, saying more than 1300 teachers had been recruited in New Zealand in 18 months amid a “global shortage”.
Mohammed Azam has just started teaching at Rotorua Girls' High School after moving from Fiji. using the Government's overseas relocation grant. Photo / Andrew Warner
Azam said he had been teaching for the past six years in Fiji.
He said he moved to New Zealand for a “new challenge” and better pay. He also said there was a “better standard of living” and better medical facilities in New Zealand.
The Rotorua Girls’ High School digital technology teacher said he wanted to undergo further studies in his subject - an opportunity that moving to New Zealand would provide him.
Azam said it only took him “a few weeks” to settle because his new colleagues were “so helpful”.
He said he had made “a lot of new friends” in Rotorua and had joined a football team.
“It feels like it’s my second home here.”
Archana Nadan, 36, also moved to Rotorua from Fiji with the assistance of the overseas relocation grant.
The Rotorua Girls’ High School science teacher said she moved in January and her partner followed in February.
She said the grant “really helped us a lot”, and they used it for airfares, accommodation and immigration costs.
“We are more than happy to contribute towards New Zealand’s economy by bringing in our expertise to teach here,” the teacher of 14 years said.
Nadan said she moved to New Zealand for “better opportunities” and the chance to “grow” in her career.
“I love it. Once you get to connect with your students and you get to build a strong relationship with them, all is good then.”
Rotorua Girls’ High School principal Sarah Davis said the scheme removed barriers for teachers to make “such a big move” from places such as Fiji to Rotorua.
Teachers were also qualified in a “multi-cultural environment,” she said.
“We like the fact also it gives them priority through immigration, so when it comes to things like going for residency ... they’re awarded for the skills and knowledge they’ve got as teachers.
“It’s not just us getting a teacher - we’re supporting their future to be here if that’s what they and their whānau want.”
Davis said Azam and Nadan had settled “really quickly” at the school.
“It’s given us confidence that this scheme has done the right thing in terms of supporting the students that we’ve got at the school.”
Davis echoed Minister Tinetti’s view there was a global shortage of teachers. She said two teachers moved to Australia last year, some teachers had gone on study leave and others left for promotions.
Additionally, having many female staff meant there had been “a healthy number of maternity leave positions,” she said.
Ministry of Education education workforce leader Anna Welanyk said 31 teachers who received the overseas relocation grant moved to the Bay of Plenty and were employed at 27 schools/kura, kindergartens and early childhood education centres.
To be eligible for the grant, people must be qualified teachers, be in Aotearoa and be employed in a teaching position. They must not have been teaching in Aotearoa in the previous 12 months, Welanyk said.
Teachers could either be born overseas and moving to Aotearoa for the first time or be a returning New Zealand-trained teacher, she said.
Welanyk said one ministry initiative was the “better jobs programme”, which placed beginning and returning teachers who had recently completed their teacher education refresh with schools with certain areas of need.
Sixteen teachers hired through this programme were placed in 12 Bay of Plenty schools. This included Rotorua Boys’ and Girls’ High Schools and Mount Maunganui Intermediate School.
“We are committed to continuing to grow the workforce so that schools have access to quality teaching staff across the country.”
Megan Wilson is a health and general news reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times and Rotorua Daily Post. She has been a journalist since 2021.
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