Māori schools miss out in mainstream lolly scramble

In the weekend, the Bay of Plenty Times announced a $30 million investment in capital expenditure for mainstream schools from the Budget. In all the hoopla, I noticed that our most pressured and over capacity schools, our Māori medium schools were not going to get one brass razzo.

In the decade that my whānau and I have lived in Tauranga Moana, we have always been involved in Māori medium education. Initially in kōhanga reo, and then kura kaupapa Māori and now kura-ā-iwi. My reflection is that resources and capacity to teach a full curriculum in te reo Māori has always been a struggle. All of the pouako we know had to develop resources and teaching units from scratch, had to upskill in the specific te reo terms for specialist subjects, had to fight to keep English out of the learning environment. They do so because the large majority are a passionate and committed bunch. They live at their kura to make it work. A lot of the teaching of my tamariki has been outside the classroom and that’s exactly as we would want.

The facilities my tamariki attend and that these pouako work out of are not always ideal. Over the years my tamariki have been taught in sheds, in garages, in lean-tos, in uninsulated original state 1950s classrooms, in leaky classrooms, in kura with broken toilets, in kura where the playground is the carpark, in kura with no play equipment. Nobody wants that for their tamariki, so in each and every instance, the Board of Trustees and the management of the different kura have notified the Ministry of Education and sought to have that rectified. The Ministry of Education has rectified some of those situations, but not all of them, and it was always slower than you might like because of “proper process.”

And getting new classrooms and new kura has been like collecting phoenix tears. We were part of Te Kura Kōkiri when it was finally registered as a kura kaupapa Māori; many years on, they’re still making do and await an agreed site and a build. At our current kura kaupapa Māori we want to transform our learning environment by modifying and opening up old classrooms for a modern pedagogy; we got our toilets done, which is suppose is a start but not much of a modern classroom. Our wharekura is a handsome learning environment, yet there we are still stretched for capacity, providing a full high school curriculum in an environment more akin to a rural high school.

That we are stretched is not just an anecdote, it is confirmed in the Ministry of Education’s own statistics: in the Bay of Plenty, the top four most over capacity schools in 2015/16 were:

  • Te Kura o Matapihi – 141%
  • Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ruamata – 140%
  • Te Wharekura o Mauao – 131%
  • Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Kura Kōkiri – 130%

‘Capacity’ in this instance is 100% use of school buildings. So you would expect if there was extra money, some of it would be used to good effect in Māori medium education.

On Saturday, Nikki Kaye trumpeted a $30 million investment package in capital expenditure including: $5.7 million of land for a new Pāpāmoa mainstream school; $5 million at Pillans Point School for classrooms; $4 million at Papamoa Sands School for the same; a $1.2 million upgrade at Omokoroa Point; and a new $18 million mainstream school at Pyes Pā. Those various principals made hay while the sun shone and called the approach “refreshing” and “significant.” Indeed, Simon Bridges said the Government was “committed to providing world-class education”. But apparently not to Māori in Māori medium education.

Because earlier in the week, Te Kura o Matapihi received the devastating news that the promised rebuild was not going to happen because the correct ministry processes had not been followed and the Ministry of Education does not want the roll to grow in Matapihi; it wants them to cap the amount of students who come there.

Say this out loud to yourself, and see if it makes more sense to you than it does to me: in a country in which te reo Māori is under threat as less and less people speak it, and in one of the main population centres for tāngata whenua, the Bay of Plenty, the Ministry of Education wants to cap the amount of students who can go to one of the most successful Māori medium schools in Tauranga Moana.

How successful are Māori medium schools? If we were to focus on the achievement that is important to mainstream schools, which is the graduate profile of NCEA results, then nationally:

  • Years 11-13 candidates at Māori  medium schools were more likely to gain a typical level or higher NCEA qualification than their Māori peers at mainstream schools.
  • candidates at Māori medium schools were more likely to meet the University Entrance requirements by the end of Year 13 than their Māori peers at mainstream schools.
  • Candidates at Māori medium schools were more likely to meet both the literacy and numeracy requirements for NCEA Level 1 by the end of Year 11 than their Māori counterparts at mainstream schools.

This is important and there are even better results in the specific wharekura here in Tauranga Moana; that’s not why we or other whānau send our tamariki to Māori medium education. Our tamariki at these kura know their language, they have a foundation in whakapapa, they understand the stories of their place and home, they are the best exponents of kapa haka, they are outstanding sports people, they know where their marae are and who their kuia and koroua are there; they are whole people. They don’t strive to be successful Pākehā; they are decolonised and decolonisers.

But apparently that’s not enough of a reason to include Māori medium education in the election year lolly scramble here in the Bay of Plenty.

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10 thoughts on “Māori schools miss out in mainstream lolly scramble

    1. I’d be interested to hear Matua Te Ururoa’s response. I actually suspect he’d be horrified, but can he achieve a change?

  1. Kia ora Graham – this does not make sense on lots of levels. Treasury’s Social Investment Unit would not be allowing MoE to NOT invest into kura kaupapa aware of the ROI to the public purse later on and MoE, if aware of the opportunity lost, would not be making those decisions either so clearly there is a breakdown internally in MoE. Their investment strategy obviously isn’t linked to student success so whoever is responsible for developing and presenting the value-proposition of Kura Kaupapa within MoE needs to retire.

  2. Well written Graham. I have put my 3 children (5-9yrs, with 1 more at preschool), into Matapihi, based on the fact that we were going to get a rebuild! Our kids have absolutely not facilities at all, except for classrooms. And the MOE has told us we are eligible for an additional 3 classrooms only now. I feel like I am failing my kids. We made a decision to send our kids to kura kaupapa maori as my husband and I have limited reo, and did not want our kids to feel whakama as we do. Honestly I have no idea what we will do, but hoping the BOT will get a clearer indication of where the stuffup was. It is obvious that something devious is happening. There is no way the MOE has not been fully aware of 3years of planning, archetects, offsite school visits and other meetings. I know this, as I was on the BOT at the time the rebuild became an option 3 years ago. I just want my kids to learn in a maori environment, with all the advantages of other mainstream schools.

    1. Ka aroha, Mere. Our tamariki are a little bit older, and everything you describe about the learning facilities and resources was our journey too. We questioned ourselves a lot about whether we had taken the right path. I am confident we have and encourage you and your husband to keep going. For me it has been seeing them succeed academically and culturally, and becoming global citizens, not monolingual, not monocultural; worth all the struggle.

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