Navigating her own path

Issue: Volume 95, Number 17

Posted: 19 September 2016
Reference #: 1H9d4X

Hariata Rongo Dalton-Reedy credits her deep love of art, language and culture to her Māori medium education.

The 19-year-old arts student visited the Ministry of Education during Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, to talk about her journey through immersion education.

“When they first called and asked me to visit, I thought ‘why would they want to talk to me? I’m just a normal girl from Ruatoria, and I don’t really see my schooling as anything special – it’s all I’ve ever known.’"

“My first meeting was with the policy team, and they asked me to talk about my school and what I think makes my educational journey special. I also spoke about unique opportunities for kids and why I think kura kaupapa Māori is beneficial for Māori children.”

Hariata Rongo says her education journey began with whānau and her years at kōhanga reo, but it was Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Waiu o Ngāti Porou in her hometown of Ruatoria that built her cultural confidence and “really unlocked something in me”.

Hariata Rongo’s mother Denise Dalton-Reedy teaches English at Ngata Memorial College and her father is a police officer who previously worked in early childhood education. She says she feels very privileged to be part of a big family that values education. Her six siblings are studying or training in professions as varied as radiology and teaching, and she believes her parents play a big role in this.

“I’m lucky because through my parents I’ve learned about how important it is to work hard."

“I’m so proud of their work ethic and the way they put the needs and aspirations of their children first."

“My mother has been teaching her whole life since she left school herself – the reason I want to be a teacher is because of her.”

A small seed that grows

Hariata Rongo believes “the wairua is strong” at her kura kaupapa, and it has been an extremely positive force in the Ruatoria community.

“I’m not saying that all the students there are angels or anything – we’re just normal kids. But the kura has really helped us in our search to be Māori, to live Māori lives, and what that really means."

“In an immersion environment, I believe that we can find something we’ve been looking for – and that it can bring greater meaning to our education."

“At my kura – you can really feel the Māori ways. We’re drenched in our Māori tikanga while still having a sound comprehension of our Pākeha counterparts.”

The educational pathway for some Māori children sees them transitioning to English medium schooling after kōhanga reo, and Hariata Rongo says this could be because some parents believe kōhanga is “enough of a grounding in all things Māori”.

“I think it’s a misconception of parents – that if you send your child to kōhanga reo, that’s enough – that’s sufficient for a good Māori grounding. But in fact, that’s just the beginning."

“Our language isn’t just a language. It goes hand in hand with customs and culture. It’s a package – you can’t have one without the other."

“I think that my kura has done a good job in growing confident young Māori people who are proud to be Māori. It’s not just a nine-to-five thing – they’ve really done their job because we are able to embody the culture in every part of our lives and it becomes natural to us."

“I hope I’m a product of their hard work,” she says.

He taonga te reo

Te reo Māori is Hariata Rongo’s first language. She remembers asking in Māori for a lolly at the shop and the shopkeeper, her cousin, not understanding her.

“That was when I was six years old,” she says.

“It just didn’t make any sense to me that my Māori cousin couldn’t understand what I was saying. After that my dad explained that many Māori spoke only English instead – and after that I started to learn more English than I already was at the time.”

However, Hariata Rongo doesn’t speak Māori with her parents all of the time.

“They understand most of it but they can’t speak it as fluently and that is because their parents didn’t necessarily teach them the language. They themselves were whipped for speaking it at school and that is just something that is totally unbelievable to me."

“I remember my mum telling me that her father only spoke Māori, but when he got to school he was physically punished, and after that he was scared to speak his own language. So he didn’t want his children to speak it and they didn’t learn when they were young."

“When I first heard about this I thought she was making it up. It didn’t make sense to me. I had to Google it to find out that it was true. I thought, ‘What did we do that was so bad that they needed to literally whip our language out of us?’"

“We can’t continue to cry about it though. That happened – it’s already been done. We’ve got to come out of the other end stronger and focus on what we’re going to do now. We’ve got to cooperate on this job of learning our language and keeping it alive.”

She is staunch in her belief that te reo Māori is a taonga for the people of Aotearoa New Zealand.

“It doesn’t start with politicians and Acts and Bills – it starts with ourselves. The language is going to live but we can’t just talk about the idea of it – we just need to start doing it!"

“Let’s get up – what shall we do about it? Let’s work together!”

Open doors

Hariata Rongo is currently in her second year at Gisborne’s Toihoukura, where she is pursuing Te Toi o Ngā Rangi or a Bachelor of Māori Visual Arts degree.

Following that, she hopes to train as a teacher.

“My course is all about contemporary art – we paint, draw, sculpt, learn about tā moko, printmaking, digital media and illustration. It’s really cool and I love being immersed in our Māori arts culture – it’s more than I could ever ask for."

“After that I’m hoping to get my postgraduate diploma in teaching. I would like to study further for a master’s here at Toihoukura but I’m not sure if I should do it straight away. I know I’ve got a lot of living to do. I feel as though I need to get out there in the real world first."

“Making art is a love of mine – it’s a way I can visually express who I am and what I hope to be in the future,” she says.

When asked about how her Māori medium education might be reflected in her future working life, Hariata Rongo says it’s given her the confidence to aim high.

“I think my kura, and the wider Māori medium setting itself, has helped me and other ordinary Māori children to feel equipped to apply for things and given me a good chance at striving for whatever I want to do. I feel like the doors are open for me."

“I do feel that my Māori education has helped me to know where I’m from, who I descend from and who I am."

“I’m only 19, but I know that I’m meant to do something greater than myself."

“My whānau and my kura have built me up to have the desire to find an effective way to contribute to the betterment of our people, which is ultimately Māori succeeding as their Māori selves."

“I’ve been fortunate enough to experience that and I hope I can do something to help other Māori experience that as well.”

Ngārimu VC and 28th (Māori) Battalion Memorial Scholarship

Hariata Rongo was this year one of five recipients of the Ngārimu VC and 28th (Māori) Battalion Memorial Scholarship.

The scholarship was established in 1948 in honour of the 28th Māori Battalion and supports future Māori leaders to be successful in education.

In 2014 Hariata Rongo Dalton-Reedy was part of a pilgrimage to many of the 28th Māori Battalion battle sites.

Hariata was the recipient of the Ngārimu VC and 28th (Māori) Battalion Memorial Challenge Supreme Award for her essay, which was inspired by the pilgrimage. Find her piece 'Where my grandfather lies' on the Education Gazette website 

BY Melissa Wastney
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 6:37 pm, 19 September 2016

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