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Te reo Maori: Setting up a primary goal

The Ākonga Māori enrichment class at Carterton School with teachers Hera Taylor and Jo Taia. PHOTOS/ FLYNN NICHOLLS

Tikanga Māori runs through every part of learning in Carterton School’s Ākonga Māori enrichment classrooms.

Every day the class start by telling the time according to maramataka [Māori lunar calendar].

Maramataka highlights the connection between the phases of the moon and our well-being.

The students sing waiata [songs], learn whakatauki [proverbs], and say karakia [blessings].

Teacher Lesley Standish established the school’s Ākonga Māori enrichment classroom 15 years ago.

It stemmed from her own whakapapa and passion.

“I know that Māori students perform better in a kaupapa Māori enriched learning environment”.

It is part of a national strategy called Ka Hikatea about increasing Māori students’ engagement in the classroom.

“I think it’s been a success,” Standish said.

Although she had to justify the project at length to the school board in the early years, the classroom’s establishment was supported by then principal Alison Woollard.

Standish doesn’t teach Ākonga Māori anymore, but she still leads the school kapa haka group.

Hera Taylor, the teina [junior] class kaiako [teacher], wants her pupils to be proud of their Māoritanga [Māori culture].

Being Māori was painted more negatively in New Zealand culture when Taylor was growing up.

“My Nan was hit at school, so she never taught her tamariki [children] te reo.

She didn’t want that for her daughter.

“I wanted Meriana to know her tikanga was valid and valuable even before she was born”.

Meriana is a year six now, in the tuākana [senior] class. She likes learning some te reo Māori by using it daily at school.

Hirini Tamihana is a new teacher aide in the Ākonga Māori class. When he attended Carteron School, tikanga Māori was not a big part of the curriculum.

“My parents spoke some Māori at home, though, and now I’m trying to teach my three-year-old son”.

Tamihana is pleased to be working with young and enthusiastic people.

“Knowing that a kid is striving to do their best, that’s my reward”.

A year 7-8 class at Kahutara School performs waiata for Maori language week 2022.

Meanwhile, Bridget Percy’s class at Kahutara school are a vibrant bunch.

Percy integrates Te Reo Māori throughout classroom learning.

“We say karakia three times a day: First thing, before lunch, and at the end of the day, and I also ask the students how they feel [in te reo] during that roll call”.

Percy’s class curriculum this year has included Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Dame Whina Cooper’s hīkoi [march] for land rights in 1975.

Māori language is now a core part of the primary school curriculum.

The ministry is pushing for it now more than ever.

Percy said that is “way overdue”.

“It’s a huge part of being a New Zealander.

“It’s putting the students in good standing moving forward”.

Isaac, one of Percy’s pupils, said, “it’s cool to learn our country’s language”.

Isaac said he likes playing the actions game, where the teacher instructs Māori, and the student needs to perform a corresponding action.

Doing the wrong action means they must sit down, and the last one standing is the winner.

Just before lunch the class performed a stirring rendition of Mahunga, pakihiwi, puku, hope, waewae [a version of heads, shoulders, knees, and toes]. Māori language is thriving at Kahutara School.

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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