The Kaumātua and Kuia Files

Explanatory note: The Co-Op thinks that the practice of intergenerational knowledge transfer is an important part of the political, social and cultural landscape. Rather than having our relationships filtered through the gatekeepers of knowledge, we figured lets go straight to the source and find out what diverse perspectives our elders have to offer on the issues of today.

Consign Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori to the Graveyard

By Pem Bird

Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo Maori needs to strike a blow for us. To take a bold but necessary action and consign Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori to the graveyard.

As the authority for Te reo, Te Taura Whiri should exercise its authority by actively fostering and promoting our reo with the support of all reo Maori producing bodies. A coherent two pronged strategy aimed at quadrupling the number of fluent reo speakers over the next 25 years.

In my view, it has taken us 40 years to realise the futility of Te Wiki o Te reo Maori as a vehicle of reo Maori revitalisation. It has been largely a hit and hope affair. It has achieved nothing much more than some self-conscious greetings on television by TV announcers, some smatterings and scatterings here and there amongst the odd Government Agency, very little in many schools, and zilch where it should matter – the public.

Here in Murupara it’s a mainstream black out. A non-event. It has served its purpose and is well and truly past its use by date.

Just look at the impact on politicians. Forty years on and many, if not most, are still murdering something as fundamental as pronunciation. Therefore I reiterate – abandon Te Wiki o te Reo Maori.

Let’s instead target our efforts, energies and resources on achieving a critical mass of speakers over a 25 year period that will secure our reo forever. We are very much an endangered species still.

The way forward is this:

  • The rapid expansion of the Maori medium sector , Kura kaupapa Maori Kura a Iwi and other immersion settings; and
  • The opening up of maximum access and opportunity for all school pupils in the compulsory sector to learn Te reo Maori as a core subject.

The role of Te Taura Whiri under this scenario would continue to be one of promotion and fostering but in a targeted and more coherent manner as outlined via a massive publicity campaign backed by all key sector groups including Te Rūnanga Nui Te Maru o ngā Kura a iwi, teacher unions, and other professional teaching organisations. For example, NZEI support the compulsory teaching of Te reo in schools.

An additional responsibility would be that of working alongside iwi on their reo strategies but in harmony with the Ministry of Education in a synergistic relationship rather than acting in isolation.

The day of iwi is here albeit at varying levels. The proposed Matawai as recommended by Te Paepae Motuhake would indicate such a role. The future calls for a fitness for purpose approach.

Our bottom line has got to be that our reo is of equal status under the law with English. And like English, our reo should be equally available and accessible to all pupils irrespective of ethnicity. As the indigenous native language there must surely be a state accountability for delivering on that accessibility and availability.

Step one abandon Te Wiki o Te reo Māori which is just a distraction!



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