Hopes, dreams and high expectations at kura

Issue: Volume 100, Number 5

Posted: 27 April 2021
Reference #: 1HAK50

Tessa Moana Kake-Tuffley (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Maniapoto and Ngāti Maruwharanui) knows that she stands on the shoulders of her tūpuna and bears their hopes and dreams for an education system that works for Māori.

A whānau affair: Moana (second from right) with son Tamajames and parents Frances and Rangi Kake.

A whānau affair: Moana (second from right) with son Tamajames and parents Frances and Rangi Kake.

Tessa Moana (Moana) Kake-Tuffley is the tumuaki of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Pihipihinga Kākano Mai Rangiātea (TPKMR) in New Plymouth and is also a graduate of the kura, in which her parents have been involved since its establishment in 1992.

She is a proud product of a Māori immersion education: “I went through the Māori educational pathway from kōhanga reo to wharekura [school] and then whare wānanga [tertiary].

“For my family as a whole, the natural progression was to go from kōhanga reo to kura kaupapa. We were living in Auckland and I attended a kura kaupapa there. When we moved to Taranaki there wasn’t a kura kaupapa and I went to a local primary school.

“Then they started having their kōrero and wānanga around establishing a kura kaupapa Māori. They were just firm believers in success of Māori as Māori and that was behind their aspirations for the kura,” she says.

Small beginnings

Moana’s parents, Rangi and Frances Kake, remember the early days when there was one teacher with whānau support and eight or nine tamariki at the kura.

“We had to create everything from scratch and fundraise to pay teachers because we had to go on our own for two years to show the Ministry what we could do. At that time, you could bring your babies into the kura – it was quite a marae in some ways,” remembers Frances.

“There’s a lot that’s been achieved, considering we had to make our own resources. For books, we just photocopied pages and did our own kids’ books,” she says.

Rangi says initially the dream for TPKMR was to one day be level pegging with other kaupapa Māori around Aotearoa.

“It’s not an easy road. You’ve got to be focused, not only as a leader/principal, but as a whānau as well. Even amongst our own people, the commitment has to be huge to climb that mountain to get to that high level; and it’s had its ups and downs, but it’s just perseverance and getting people involved,” he says.

Moana remembers going to wānanga with her parents in the 1980s and ’90s.

“I remember having so many different wānanga that catered to tamariki, but some were just for parents and we just went along. It was a really whānau environment. If we were doing a march for te reo Māori, the whole school would go and we’d walk around the whole of Taranaki in support of the revitalisation of our reo,” recalls Moana.

Tikanga Māori

At 36, Moana is a young tumuaki and is aware of the expectations placed on her and her Year 1-15 kura, which now has a roll of 115 students.

“Going on the Māori pathway was a tikanga that my great grandfather and my grandmother instilled in us at a young age.

“You are doing it to make a difference so that your mokopuna can hear of the mahi that their tūpuna or kaumātua helped to do, and to try and continue those aspirations. Everything that I do and how I speak to my children is not just as Māori, but to be able to provide better opportunities for ourselves to set our part of the world up for tamariki/mokopuna,” she says.

Confident and contributing citizens

When parents enroll their children at TPKMR, they are asked why they have chosen this kura option.

“Of all the pathways, I believe, coming to kura kaupapa Māori isn’t just a ‘drop-off at 9, pick-up at 3’ kind of thing. It’s having a whānau hui every month that can take anywhere between one and four hours.

It’s a lot of commitment and that’s just to whānau hui, let alone to te reo Māori, and ensuring the revitalisation of our reo,” says Moana.

She says the focus is on whānau and the whole child, but she expects NCEA Level 3 passes where possible.

“The standard is that NCEA Level 3 is a must and they aren’t leaving school until they get it – if you are Year 15, then ka pai. Having that expectation does get full on and they say they don’t want to let me down. We say, ‘The only thing that is stopping you is yourself’. We work through those maunga/mountains to ensure they have the skills to prepare themselves.

“We do want them to be scholars in areas of interest, but we also want them to know where the tea towel is when they go to the pā and that they are confident and contributing citizens of their own whānau, hapū and iwi,” says Moana.

Giving back

Karere Huhu-Paraone was one of those students who had a few maunga to climb during his 12 years at the kura. In 2021, he will be completing his fourth year studying Toi Māori (art) at the Eastern Institute of Technology.

“Karere left after Year 13,” says Moana, “and he had always wanted to be an artist of Toi Maori – he’s from Gisborne. We helped him through the pathway as he returned to his people of Te Tairāwhiti. He was the first graduate who had gone from New Entrant to Year 13.

“He came back after eight months away and got up at the graduation and said he’s going to complete his degree in Toi Maori and then get his teaching diploma so that he can come back.

“I’m so proud of the way the mindset changed with him. I was bawling my eyes out because I never thought I would hear that. His last two years were a long journey but it makes it all worthwhile when they are smashing their goals,” she says.

Immersed in tikanga Māori

Immersed in tikanga Māori

Each day at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Pihipihinga Kākano Mai Rangiātea starts with karakia (prayers) done collectively by kura around Aotearoa.

“It gives us all a chance to be together to keep our whare wananga/whare kōrero warm,” explains Moana.

The kura kaupapa, in the New Plymouth suburb of Spotswood, was once home to a Māori trade school where Moana’a father, Rangi Kake, learned his trade as a painter and decorator. The Trade School’s original brick buildings are still there, along with new kura buildings.

The Wharenui Te Pārekereke o te Tangata is at the heart of the former pā site, which looks out to the west, with traffic flowing past on SH45 and the Tasman Sea on the horizon.

Tamariki from the surrounding iwi attend the kura, which identifies with the Tokomaru, Kurahaupō and Aotea waka, with Ngāti Te Whiti as the mana whenua.

Whānau commitment

Whānau of the kura’s students commit to observing tikanga and learning te reo, if required, so they can support their tamariki in their learning.

“In the past, the whānau would come and say they really want their tamariki to come here. They would say, ‘We don’t have much reo, but we as a family are ready to support that’.

“We don’t say they can’t come to this kura, but because everything is delivered in te reo Māori, we do say that the tamariki need support. My worst fear is that tamariki come to kura not knowing how to speak or understand reo and then their lack of reo turns into behaviour issues. We don’t want our kaiako or kaimahi [staff] to be focusing on behaviour more than teaching and learning.”

Whakapapa and curriculum

All of the class whare are named for the whetu/stars of Matariki, or Puanga, as it’s called in Taranaki.

“All of our whare carry names of whetu/stars because we also believe in the maramataka Māori- the stars which navigated Maori from Hawaiki to Aotearoa – it's about journeys and the connection to our origin to where we are today,” she says.

The kura’s name means the sprouting of the seed of Rangiātea, which is also the name for the 12th heaven that Tāne climbed to get the baskets of knowledge, and the place where Māori are connected to their tūpuna.

Most of the kaiako at the kura kaupapa have trained at wānanga reo: Moana studied at Te Wānanga o Raukawa at Otaki. While the kura’s local curriculum is evolving, she says that it is aligned with Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (Māori curriculum).

“As an example, we may focus on an atua [god] that may be Tane Mahuta so we will look at the different aspects of Tane Mahuta, such as how he climbed the heavens to get the kete of knowledge, and how he separated his parents, Rangi and Papa.

“He’s the god of the forest so we’d teach things about the forest such as rongoa/medicines; as well as aspects of what our tūpuna endured in their lifetime – myths and legends or rangatira within our own rohe that would be significant for tamariki,” says Moana.

Pathways and expectations

At 35, Moana laughs that she doesn’t want to be a role model all the time. While she doesn’t doubt her leadership of the school, she does feel the pressure of expectations.

“A lot of it is my own expectations of myself. If for any reason, there’s something that I say I will do that I don’t get to complete – that's when I feel the weight on my shoulders. I do feel the pressure of being a younger tumuaki, because people are thinking, ‘She’s so young, should she be in a position like that?’. I totally get that,” she says.

But Moana knows no other pathway, as she saw her parents and grandparents work hard on the marae and at the kura kaupapa.

“When I was a student, kura was really fun and engaging. I believe we had some of the best teachers because the whānau were so invested and at that time in the late 80s/early 90s, Taranaki especially was just buzzing with kaupapa Māori happening.

“I moved away, but before my son turned five, Shar and I decided we would move home and bring him to the kura here. He was at kohanga reo and I wanted him to have the same pathway.

“Being a parent in the kaupapa before becoming principal made me really appreciate the hard work that my parents put in, because it now makes it a whole lot easier to be able to provide more opportunities and help pave the pathway for Maori education, especially in Taranaki,” she says.

Preparing for the future

The kura takes its responsibility of preparing its students for life after school very seriously – whether it be for tertiary education in another town, getting work experience or leaving home. In Year 11, their individual education pathway is created, with a focus on their passions or where the whānau and student sees his or her future.

“We’ve been really lucky working with Taranaki Futures and industry here. Because a lot of our students associate with the different ropu, when they do go out into industry, they actually know what our tamariki are about. If our tamariki go out on work experience, we always send a staff member or adult, because although we know they’re going to be okay, we want to ensure that our tamariki are understood.

“The first time I left home, I went to Waikato University, and I wasn’t prepared physically or mentally for not being around my whānau and parents. So as a kura, we might teach skills in the cooking programme, like how to cook on a budget and those kind of life skills that they need,” says Moana.

Measures of success

When asked what success looks like for Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Pihipihinga Kākano Mai Rangiātea and its community, Moana has several responses.

“Ideally, when our students leave us at Year 13, we need them to be academically ready, as well as ready to be a contributing citizen to their hapu, iwi and marae – to Māoridom as a whole. They know they can always come home to the kura and that there’s an expectation that in some way, shape or form they will give back to the kura that helped to nurture and develop them as a person.

“For the future of this kura, I want that same feeling for Rangiātea whenua to be buzzing with excitement of Māori being proud to be Māori. Our tamariki are very proud in their tikanga.

“We want them to be comfortable in their own skin and to be able to speak up for what they believe in, as well as other things like knowing how to set up a marae for tangihanga, how to prepare for a hangi, knowing how to feed 100 people, how to entertain with waiata, poi and kapahaka,” she explains.

As a wahine Māori, Moana also has a special interest in watching the growth and development of young women coming up through kura and preparing them for being able to take on the role of kaikaranga (ceremonial callers onto the marae) for their iwi, marae and kura.

“They know what to do and if they are put in a position they will step up to the bar. We are preparing them for that life, because, in my experience at least, being a student of kura kaupapa Māori, you are generally the person that takes on that role, whether or not you want to.

Moana’s parents are proud that all of their children have the values and tikanga they hoped for, and they are especially proud that the kura they dreamed of is in good hands.

“Things have come a long way, so that’s brilliant in itself – where they’ve come from to where they are now – you never thought they would get there, but it’s come from just a primary school to primary to 7th form,” says Rangi.

“That was just a pipe dream many years ago, but to see that flourish and go forward, that’s one of the dreams that have come true. I probably thought Moana could have been the tumuaki of this kura,” he laughs.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:10 pm, 27 April 2021

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