The Empty Nest: why we should remove the Kōhanga Reo trustees

I’ve been at our kura’s wānanga reo in Manaia on the Coromandel Peninsula for the week, so I am few days behind everyone else in the twitterverse (which is an eternity in Twitter time). So it was only yesterday that I watched the Native Affair’s Feathering the Nest, the second part of their investigation into the activities of the National Kōhanga Reo Trust Board. I watched it on my tablet, using my cellphone as a hotspot, on the banks of the Manaia river at the only spot with 3G coverage on the Vodafone network. That’s commitment right there.

All four of our children have attended kōhanga reo. Our first kōhanga reo was Te Kōhanga Reo o Ngaio in Wellington, then we spent a number of years at Te Kōhanga Reo o Tutarawananga in Merivale, Tauranga, and we are now at Te Kōhanga Reo o Te Akau in Pāpāmoa, Tauranga with our boys (we were featured in part one of the Native Affairs’ investigation).

At Tutarawananga, my wife worked as a kaiawhina and she did the Te Ara Tuarua qualification in her time there. I was chair and licensee for many years. We have always made an effort to be active as whānau, and have often been central to helping our various kōhanga reo have good governance practices. Those of you involved in kōhanga reo over the years will know how challenging that can be.

Therefore it is difficult to express the betrayal I feel personally at the financial mismanagement at the National Trust. There is a little dancing around the issue on various articles, posts, blogs and tweets. There is clearly a desire to tidy up the mess, to put on a good face in front of the Pākehā media and public, and to protect the mana of the kuia kaumātua on the board who have given many years and many tears to the kaupapa.

I disagree that we can be seen to have a commitment to the four pou of kōhanga reo, and particularly tū tika, tū pono, by both attempting to fudge the issue and make it alright for Dame Iritana, Toni, Wharehuia, Timoti, Druis, and Manuera, whilst also re-establishing integrity to the kaupapa. This board of trustees has betrayed the integrity of our kōhanga reo movement. Full stop, no excuses. Whether they were the person who spent money unaccountably, approved spending of money, didn’t ask questions about the spending of money, or just didn’t get involved, they are all complicit. That is the burden of being a trustee. Accountability for actions is collective. They have let us down; we don’t have to protect them from anything.

It is also important to me that not one trustee has expressed any remorse for the actions of the board. Not one. Whether speaking in te reo Māori or English, they have ducked and dived and hidden behind legalisms. If a person does not accept that their actions are wrong, that person is not prepared to be reconciled and rehabilitated. The National Kōhanga Reo Trust Board as a whole and as individuals are unwilling to accept wrong doing so they need to go. Now and permanently.

Finally, this has nothing to do with tikanga Māori. The money is from the Crown. If you want the Crown’s money, you play to the rules set by the Crown. And the money is given by the Crown to get to local kōhanga reo to encourage and develop the language acquisition of our mokopuna. The hold up and use of money at the trust is a dirty game for their own personal benefit. There is nothing inherently Māori about their actions. It is nepotism and fraud. I use these Pākehā words and Pākehā concepts advisedly; we as Māori often hide behind the faux magic of our language.

Let’s stop the dodging, the hand wringing, the reconciliatory words. Get rid of the board. Change the trust deed. Get the flow of money to local kōhanga reo moving to meet the desperate needs there. And if some or all of the, by then, ex-trustees wish to be reconciled with the movement, let’s do that too. But let’s stop worshipping at the clay feet of people who have hurt the educational opportunities of our mokopuna.

Another great blog on this issue is Morgan Godfrey’s How not to manage a crisis.

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3 thoughts on “The Empty Nest: why we should remove the Kōhanga Reo trustees

    1. It gets so frustrating see this in organisation after organisation. Maybe there will be a reckoning and change one day.

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