Tauira to Tumuaki Te Iri Rangi Tawhara shares journey to leadership at Te Rangi Āniwaniwa

Issue: Volume 102, Number 7

Posted: 1 June 2023
Reference #: 1HAa8W

Te Iri Rangi Tawhara has spent much of her life at Te Rangi Āniwaniwa – a kura kaupapa Māori located between Kaitaia and Awanui. She started at the kura as a student in 1997, and 20 years later became Tumuaki.

Te Rangi Āniwaniwa Tumuaki Te Iri Rangi Tawhara with her son, Te Pua Tawhiwhi, and husband, Benjamin (Pene) Tawhara.

Te Rangi Āniwaniwa Tumuaki Te Iri Rangi Tawhara with her son, Te Pua Tawhiwhi, and husband, Benjamin (Pene) Tawhara.

Te Iri Rangi Tawhara has many links and connections that interweave her with Muriwhenua. She hails from Ngāti Kuri, Te Rarawa, Ngāi Takoto, Ngāti Kahu and Ngāti Toro, and grew up in a small valley next to Rangaunu Harbour known as Te Paa a Parore.

In 1997, after two years at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Rangiāwhia, Te Iri Rangi started at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Rangi Āniwaniwa. That kura would become a major part of her life.

When thinking back to her time as a student at the kura, Te Iri Rangi reflects on the school’s “humble beginnings”.

“Little did we know, the kura you see now has been built across a period of 30 years. When we first started up at Te Rangi Āniwaniwa we grew up with the bare minimum, but we had everything,” she says.

She recalls a rusty “taretare” hoop that produced a number of local, regional, national and world basketball representatives; and remembers her tuakana, who were the first cohort of wharekura students of the kura, doing their mahi in the hallways and later on in the school’s garden toolshed.

“Humble beginnings built gratitude and resilience. Knowing what I know now and how displaced Kura Kaupapa Māori are from its opposite counterpart ngā Kura aunoa. Despite learning in dire situations, what came from it is a burning desire to do and be better for our people and tamariki,” she says.

Te Iri Rangi says she is grateful for the movers and shakers like Papa Hone Harawira and Whāea Hilda Halkyard-Harawira who helped pave a pathway for the next generations to “flourish in Te Ao Māori”.

“Here you would see 30 years of living and learning at Te Rangi Āniwaniwa, life-long connections, rich learning experiences and generational cultural wealth. We now have four generations at Niwa.”

Whāia Te Tino Rangatiratanga

A key memory Te Iri Rangi has is putting the flag at school up and down every day. She says she and her kura friends would have turns during the week and say a karakia before putting it up in the morning and bringing it back down the same in the afternoon.

“It was a daily ritual for us which made us proud to be Māori and really instilled in us the school motto which was Whāia Te Tino Rangatiratanga.”

Te Iri Rangi explains that motto is about pursuing excellence in Mātauranga Māori, sports and culture. She says the students had staunch leaders in Te Ao Māori represented in the kura, who helped bring that motto to life.

“Many of them were leaders in the revitalisation of Te Reo me ōna Tikanga for our whānau, hapū and iwi,” she says.

Te Iri Rangi Tawhara

Te Iri Rangi Tawhara

Te Iri Rangi says learning happened in and out of the classroom. Students were taught about Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the breaches that occurred; they were taught tāniko by a renowned local artist, learned te reo by ear listening to the history and stories of Muriwhēnua, and the kaiako were made up of Kaumātua and young passionate kaiako and kaiāwhina.

Karakia; waiata tawhito; marae visits; camps; sports; and school trips to tangihanga, openings and protests were all part of life at Te Rangi Āniwaniwa.

She says looking back, she was blessed.

“So much of who I am today is owed to most of, if not all the people I’ve been privy to growing up with at Te Rangi Āniwaniwa, but also from my childhood too. From a young age I had really rich experiences.”

Te Iri Rangi was not short of role models but some key people she mentions are her grandfather Rapi Hopihana, a prominent Kaumātua for Te Paa a Parore marae; her parents Norma and Terence Moses; and Whāea Hilda who was her Tumuaki, teacher, mentor and basketball and waka ama coach.

Giving back to Te Rangi Āniwaniwa

Te Iri Rangi says there’s a saying within ngā Kura Aho Matua: kia hoki hei raukura mō tō whānau, hapū, iwi that talks about coming back to contribute to the health and wellbeing of your people.

Te Iri Rangi originally wanted to pursue a career in physiotherapy, however paths changed in her second year of university and soon followed a pathway to become a kaiako. This started the next chapter in her life.

Te Iri Rangi Tawhara has been an active member of Te Rangi Āniwaniwa in Kaitaia for close to 25 years.

Te Iri Rangi Tawhara has been an active member of Te Rangi Āniwaniwa in Kaitaia for close to 25 years.

“It was important to come back and give back to the kura that gave so much to me and create positive experiences for the next generation,” she says.

“I’ve been an active member of Te Rangi Āniwaniwa for close to 25 years. A big achievement has been seeing my son grow up in kōhanga reo and now kura kaupapa Māori that I once attended when I was younger. He’ll be in his seventh year now at Te Rangi Āniwaniwa.”

Te Iri Rangi was head girl of the kura in 2005, her final year. From 2006 to 2012 she worked as a kaiāwhina and after pursuing studies, getting married and having her baby she did her first practicum at the kura in 2013.

The next year she was hired as a kaiako hākinakina (health and PE teacher) and in 2015 she was given the role of Pouārahi Matua to help lead the wharekura.

In 2017 she was appointed Tumuaki of Te Rangi Āniwaniwa. She says it was a realisation of a dream for the kura to be run by an ex-student who already had an understanding of Te Aho Matua, the guiding philosophy of Ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori; who knows the history of the rohe; and also knows the whānau and wider community.

Becoming Tumuaki was a 20-year succession plan coming to fruition and helped break down the fears or walls for other promising young raukura to become the Tumuaki for their respective kura, she says.

“There’s a lot of pressure, but it’s a privilege to really take part in something that’s bigger than yourself and being able to contribute to that vision and that legacy. With the right support, and pure determination to achieve specific goals, anything is possible.”

Te Iri Rangi says her first two years as Tumuaki was the hardest she’s ever had to work. There were long nights and long days learning the different processes, and she has faced challenges along the way.

But she says she feels like she is where she’s meant to be.

“It’s a lot of hard work but it feels good. It’s an honour to be a raukura giving back to the people and wider community. I’m grateful.”

Te Rangi Āniwaniwa in Kaitaia

Te Rangi Āniwaniwa in Kaitaia

Kaupapa bigger than ourselves

Te Iri Rangi is currently on study leave pursuing a postgraduate Diploma in Education (Māori Medium) Poutāhū Whakaakoranga, alongside her husband Benjamin (Pene) Tawhara.

There are many dreams for Te Rangi Āniwaniwa and there is much work to be done.

Te Iri Rangi acknowledges the need for strong Māori models of learning in Te Hiku o Te Ika; this includes kōhanga reo and kura kaupapa in the region and she would like to be a part of the long-term solution to ensuring Te Reo Māori me ōna Tikanga are strong.

She says collective discussions have been built with the Board and local Rūnanga to establish a Māori Research Centre based at the kura to ensure the stories and histories are upheld and taken care of.

“There is a sense of pride in being a part of a kaupapa bigger than ourselves, not alone, but with a collective who share a similar vision and set of goals.

“Kura prides itself in our Muriwhenuatanga and the principles and values of Te Aho Matua, we pride ourselves on pursuing excellence to further our knowledge in Mātauranga Māori, sport and culture, and that the health and wellbeing of our tamariki will always be at the forefront of all decisions.”

Te Iri Rangi says it’s important to acknowledge the village; her son Te Pua Tawhiwhi and husband Benjamin Tawhara, who are always next to her side; her late mother Norma Moses and grandfather Rapi Hopihana; her dad Terence Moses, two brothers Povey and Gary Moses and their partners and children; her many whānau members and Kaumātua o te kāinga; her mentors and predecessor Whāea Hilda and long-term standing Board members Papa Hone, Board chair Trudy Brown, Shirley Maika; all the coaches, sponsors, and parents who helped her as a student; and lastly the many tuakana and teina, ngā raukura of her generation who are the living embodiment of Whāia te tino rangatiratanga, kia tū Te Ao Māori. 

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

Posted: 8:43 am, 1 June 2023

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