France commune

From hippie commune to prestigious political university in France

Former Whitianga Manaia Matafeo has been selected to study in France.

PROVIDED

Former Whitianga Manaia Matafeo has been selected to study in France.

In the crowd of anti-drilling and anti-oil protests in Coromandel was a young Manaia Matafeo.

He was introduced to the protests at an early age and believes those early memories played a role in his decision to pursue an education in politics.

The former Whitianga man has been selected to study at one of the best political universities in the world – Sciences Po, in Reims, France.

The school was founded in 1872 to promote a new class of French politicians and has since educated seven of the last eight French presidents.

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Current French <a class=President Emmanuel Macron attended Sciences Po.” style=”width:100%;display:inline-block”/>

Leon Neal/GETTY

Current French President Emmanuel Macron attended Sciences Po.

“My parents always stressed the importance of getting involved in politics and the things that affect us.

“Seeing people so passionate about something that they were willing to fight for it showed me that the issues matter, and that without these people expressing their passion and pushing a movement forward, you don’t you’ll never go anywhere.”

But Matafeo, 19, has no interest in leading a country. It’s the grassroots governance that really drives him.

“I don’t know if the current system is something that actually serves everyone in the best possible way, and I don’t know if my becoming a politician would help anyone in any way,” said- he declared.

“I’m more interested in working at the community level because that’s where I think you can make the most change.”

For the first three years of his life, Matafeo lived in Wilderland, a farm in the Coromandel countryside.

As a high school student, he studied abroad at a United World College in Armenia, where he got his first taste of creating change at the community level.

“Part of our program was to create community projects, such as a girls’ football club, an afternoon with children with disabilities and English lessons.

“That kind of stuff was really cool for me because it was so face-to-face, and I could really connect with people, and when you connect with people, you can see you’re helping them,” said- he declared.

Closer to home, Matafeo said New Zealand could do much better with issues such as inequality and poverty.

“I think we can create a society where everyone is taken care of.

“Armenia is a third world country. We stayed in a small town with poverty everywhere – on a different level than New Zealand – but even here we should hold ourselves to a high standard when it comes to this kind of things.

“Kids going to school hungry without proper clothes… people living in damp and cold houses, those kinds of things we need to work on,” he said.

Matafeo estimated his French living and study expenses at at least $33,260 per year for three years.

He said studying at Sciences Po depended on how much money he could raise.

“I’ve spent most of my life so far doing my best academically, and it’s been unforgettable…so it would be cool for people to invest in someone who’s going to gain knowledge world class and come back and use it in our country and use it for good.”

To donate visit www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/help-me-study-at-my-dream-university