Bali Haque is a man on a mission for equity in education and providing opportunities for the younger generation in Taranaki. “There continues to be disparities in our communities, particularly in regard to children and young people. Not only is it unfair, it’s bad for Taranaki – it’s just buying problems down the track,” says the leading New Zealand educationalist.
“I hope we can close the gaps so there’s more equity and everybody that lives here can enjoy a good quality of life and services and gets support.” He is optimistic that can happen, especially with help from the Trust, which he joined in July 2018. “There’s so much to be proud of… you think what’s been achieved in this community already; I just want to acknowledge that.”
Taranaki has a strong pull for Bali and Kiwi wife Cara, who returned to the region in 2015. “This is our third time back to New Plymouth. We had an absolute choice over where we could live, but it was a no brainer – we wanted to go back to the mountain and the sea.”
Bali was born in Pakistan at a time of great unrest. His parents, who were born in India, got caught up in the upheaval following the Pakistan-India partition in 1947. “My father was a journalist, and there was turmoil and the military got involved. He was thrown out and we got on a ship and ended up in London. I was three years old when we left.”
In 1975, Bali and Cara, who met in England, landed in New Zealand with backpacks and hopes of getting teaching posts. In Wellington, they visited the then Department of Education and were given the choice of New Plymouth or Dunedin. They chose the former and started at Spotswood College, where he taught economics and she taught English.
“We had two years in New Zealand and had a fantastic time.” Then they headed back to England and had their two boys, Tobias and Daniel. “We never intended to come back but got a call from Spotswood College – there’s a head of department job, come back.”
When the Haques arrived with their young family, they were embraced by the Spotswood community. “People met us at the airport, they had rented a house for us on Pendarves St, the fridge was full, and Harry Duynhoven lent us a car.”
From there, Bali moved into leadership roles, including Principal jobs at Tamatea High School in Hawke’s Bay, Rosehill College in Papakura and Papakura College, both in South Auckland.
His next post was as Deputy Chief Executive of the New Zealand Qualifications Association, where he was responsible for the reform and implementation of the NCEA programme.
He left there in 2012 to become the Principal of Tereora College, the national high school of the Cook Islands. While there, his book, “Changing our Secondary Schools”, was published 2014.
After three years in the Rarotonga, he and Cara moved back to New Plymouth and his education career has been busier than ever, including writing a second book, "New Zealand Secondary Schools and your Child: a guide for parents", published in 2017.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Education asked Bali to head up an independent taskforce to look at the whole structure of Tomorrow’s Schools, introduced in 1989 along with Board of Trustees. That has involved holding more than 200 meetings around the country to ask parents, teachers, principals, students and board members questions to find out how the system is working for everyone.
Alongside that, Bali was asked to put his name forward as a Trustee for the TSB Community Trust. “I really love this place and I wanted to contribute. “I have a commitment to equity and I hope I bring some skills around that change management and big-picture thinking, but that’s yet to be proved.”