Māori model of education a pioneer of success

Issue: Volume 102, Number 3

Posted: 8 March 2023
Reference #: 1HAZpE

Māori-medium education is successful in achieving exceptional outcomes for ākonga Māori, and much of this is down to the mahi of educators who have fought to achieve recognition for the value of Māori-medium kaupapa.

Arihia is proud of the achievements of Te Kura Māori o Ngā Tapuwae.

Arihia is proud of the achievements of Te Kura Māori o Ngā Tapuwae.

Last year marked 40 years of success in Māori-medium education, and for the many Māori educationalists who have had, and still have, a vision of how education can deliver exceptional outcomes for ākonga Māori.  

One of these early educators is Te Kepa Stirling, who established Te Kura Māori o Ngā Tapuwae with his wife, Pani Takawhenua Waipapa Stirling. The Māori unit was fully operational when the school changed names from Ngā Tapuwae College to Southern Cross Campus. The Māori unit continued under the name of Te Reo Rua o Ngā Tapuwae and grew into a successful standalone Kura Māori.  

In 1975 Pani was given the choice of being head of the Māori department at either Ōtāhuhu College or Ngā Tapuwae: she chose the latter as it was a new college.  

Ngā Tapuwae was intended to be a ‘community college’, and extensive community facilities were developed over the years. This included the first crèche on a school campus. In 1976 Te Kepa, who had been a carpenter, retrained as a kaiako Māori and became the physical education and Māori teacher at the college.  

His daughter Arihia Stirling, QSM, who is the current principal of Te Kura Māori o Ngā Tapuwae, explains that at that time the area was growing thanks to a migration from the inner city into the suburbs.  

“It was at that particular time, like returning to the land of milk and honey. There was lots of work all around. Our people at that time had moved to the cities and never knew anything but work. So work was plentiful.”  

Unfortunately, in the mid 1980s, work ran out with the closure of meat works and other industries that had been a mainstay of employment. This led to depression amongst families, and ākonga started to stay away from school.  

The Stirlings set up a pastoral care system with a focus on getting the Māori students back into school.  

“My dad knew the families quite well. So, he used to go to their homes and tell the kids to get out of bed and get in the school van,” says Arihia.  

The pastoral care system called Te Whare Awhina was the first of its kind and allowed the parents to deal with the grief of being out of work whilst creating a reprieve for the children to be out of the house. The system started with just two form classes and then grew to being a full bilingual unit called Te Reo Rua o Ngā Tapuwae.  

“By the late 80s, the place was humming because of what Mum and Dad had done, which was build a whānau system where families could come to be a part of our school whānau. Dad built a marae – Te Whare Wananga Pupuri Korero o Ngā Tapuwae at the same time, which got people in and helped a lot of displaced people,” says Arihia.  

The Whare Wananga became a place where people from different rohe could come together and celebrate being Māori. This became the hub for the Ngā Tapuwae experience, and they built strong social support for ākonga and whānau to achieve success.

Te reo Māori provides support for tamariki Māori.

Te reo Māori provides support for tamariki Māori.


Conflicts and triumph  

The unit grew in strength which created tensions with the remainder of the college, where numbers had dropped. There were conflicts over the composition of the board; whilst Kepa had managed to have supporters of the unit voted in, this did not resolve the conflicts and in 1994, Minister of Education Lockwood Smith sacked the Board of Trustees.  

Although an Education Review Office (ERO) review said that the unit was excelling and had academic levels higher than the rest of the school, there were moves to try and close the unit. The board was replaced by a commissioner whose role was to ‘sort out’ the unit.  

“In February when we went back to school as teachers, we were all told that the principal was gone, that [Sir] John Graham is now the commissioner, and this is how it’s going to be.”  

John was reluctant to keep the pastoral care system that had been created, but Kepa was adamant to fight for what they had created.  

Arihia says her father told him, “I’ll shed blood for what I believe in. So obviously, we’re going to have to have some conversations.”  

Arihia took over as the leader of Te Reo Rua o Ngā Tapuwae and continued these conversations. Her initial feelings were to take an activist approach, but she adhered to her mother’s teachings.  

“My mother said be assertive. At this moment we need to be smart and strategic. We need to prove that we actually know what we’re doing.”  

They were able to prove this, to the extent that John told them that they needed to start their own school which would provide the same opportunities for younger ākonga.  

From there, in 1996, Te Kura Māori o Ngā Tapuwae was founded as a school within a school, which shared a site with Southern Cross Campus.  

The status of Te Kura Māori o Ngā Tapuwae as a school began in 1997 with the appointment of its own director. Te Kura Māori o Ngā Tapuwae officially opened as a Kura-ā-Iwi in January 2011 and has continued to deliver exceptional outcomes for Māori learners ever since.  

Arihia credits this achievement to the determination of her parents, as well as the guidance and support of the late Sir John Graham  

“It was very lonely being a young, Māori principal, but under the leadership and guidance of Sir John Graham I was able to navigate the institutional spaces, and with that support and that constant guidance from 1997, we finally got our own school in 2011.”

Te Kepa Stirling and his wife the late Pani Takawhenua Waipapa Stirling have been a strength in Māori education.

Te Kepa Stirling and his wife the late Pani Takawhenua Waipapa Stirling have been a strength in Māori education.


Activism and education  

Hilda Halkyard-Harawira, former principal of Te Rangi Āniwaniwa, a kura kaupapa in Kaitaia, is also heavily involved in fighting for kaupapa Māori and Māori education.  

Hilda was born at Mangonui and educated at Hillary College. In her early years at university, she became involved in activism, which carried through to her role as an advocate for reo Māori education.  

“Education is a powerful tool of liberation, and I was lucky enough to have had good teachers at Hillary College, and I vowed to become a good teacher for our youth in the reo Māori space.”  

She is proud of being a founder of Āniwaniwa Kōhanga Reo, Te Rangi Āniwaniwa and Te Wānanga o Te Rangi Āniwaniwa.  

In February, Te Rangi Āniwaniwa celebrated its 30th anniversary. Twice in its history it has capped its roll, the first time at 100 students, which prompted another kura kaupapa Māori to start – Pukemiro.  

Last year, a third kura kaupapa, Tūtūtarakihi was officially recognised by the Ministry of Education. A fourth kura is due to open in Ngāti Kahu in the near future.  

The local kohanga reo teach their mokopuna the foundations of te reo basics ie karakia, waiata and pepeha. They feed into Te Rangi Āniwaniwa, which is situated next to Kaitaia Airport.  

Te Rangi Āniwaniwa grew out of the Ngāti Kahu, Te Aupōuri and Te Rarawa Trust. The trust established Āniwaniwa Kōkiri Centre, and the mothers of those involved in the Kōkiri helped establish Āniwaniwa Kōhanga Reo. They still wanted more opportunities for their children to continue learning in te reo Māori, hence the development of Te Rangi Āniwaniwa.  

While it took time for Te Rangi Āniwaniwa to gain Kura Kaupapa Māori status, this did not prevent the school from starting.  

“The desire of the people was so strong, they did not wait for funding. We were united in our belief to save the reo and pass the reo on to our children as part of our future wellbeing.”  

Since 2013, Hilda has been the voluntary advocate for Te Kōtiu, Te Kāhui Tumuaki o Ngā Kura Kaupapa o Tai Tokerau. Her role is to advocate for anything to support whānau and learning in the kura kaupapa space in Tai Tokerau.  

“I call myself the Mini-star of Mātauranga Māori in Te Tai Tokerau – Minister Kelvin Davis’ counterpart in the northern kura kaupapa Māori sphere of influence.”  

Pioneers of successful education  

Hilda sees Kura Kaupapa Māori as having the highest success rate in education attainment. As part of her current activities, she is part of a group awaiting the opportunity to present an urgent claim to the Waitangi Tribunal on behalf of Kōhanga Reo, Kura Kaupapa, Kura a Iwi and Wānanga Māori. The group want to establish a separate parallel Māori education pathway that caters for their highly successful model of education.  

“The new initiative of Kelvin Davis, Te Hurihanganui, is outstanding for mainstream schools. But we have pioneered that track 30 to 40 years ago and we have different goals, needs and we are over the one-size-fits-all, mark time for another 30 years, model,” says Hilda.  

In terms of future progress, some achievements Hilda would like to see is funding being invested early to support tamariki Māori in their learning and te reo Māori continuing to be a main support for the wellbeing of Māori.  

Both Hilda and Arihia want to see a continued support for whānau, as this is an important aspect for ākonga achievement.  

“Children are the most valued, but without families, we don’t have good children,” says Arihia.  

“Our success is about nurturing the social issues of our family and busting all the barriers that cause stress for family members that make them not able to feel the joy of their children. Schools like us do that. Māori schools do that.” 

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

Posted: 2:25 pm, 8 March 2023

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