Maori Lan­guage Week is for ev­ery­one to en­joy

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - SOAPBOX -

Te Ko­hanga Reo O Nga Puawai is an early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion cen­tre based in Maori lan­guage and cus­toms, cater­ing for chil­dren aged 0-5. There are cur­rently 460 ko­hanga reo through­out New Zealand, and we also have sev­eral ko­hanga reo through­out Aus­tralia and Bri­tain. We cre­ate a nur­tur­ing, lov­ing en­vi­ron­ment fully im­mersed in te reo Maori and tikanga Maori.

The ko­hanga reo move­ment was con­ceived and led in the late 1970s by kau­matua as a re­sponse to the se­ri­ous de­cline in Maori lan­guage and cul­ture. They re­alised that with­out the lan­guage, their cul­tural iden­tity could be lost for­ever.

The move­ment has been a huge suc­cess in bring­ing about a re­nais­sance of Maori lan­guage and cus­toms. As well as ben­e­fit­ing Maori in terms of their in­di­vid­ual iden­tity, there is am­ple ev­i­dence that chil­dren who learn more than one lan­guage ben­e­fit aca­dem­i­cally in many ways.

Ko­hanga reo is where our tamariki learn about Maori tra­di­tions, wa­iata, whaka­papa and karakia, all taught in te reo Maori. We have a range of na­tion­al­i­ties and eth­nic­i­ties at Nga Puawai – ko­hanga reo is not for Maori only.

We have three ko­hanga reo in the Marl­bor­ough re­gion but the only one cur­rently op­er­at­ing is Nga Puawai. We are based in Budge St next to the Nel­son Marl­bor­ough In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy – we get a lot of whanau at­tend­ing cour­ses at the polytech.

Ko­hanga reo is whanau-led. We also en­cour­age our ko­hanga whanau to come and learn be­side their tamariki, so that their knowl­edge of te reo in­creases and helps to sup­port the learn­ing of te reo Maori with their chil­dren at home.

Ko­hanga reo is the only place in Marl­bor­ough where chil­dren aged 0-5 are able to learn te reo Maori in a to­tal im­mer­sion en­vi­ron­ment.

Our tamariki who come out of ko­hanga in the Marl­bor­ough area are un­for­tu­nate in that they have nowhere to fol­low on to that is bilin­gual or to­tal im­mer­sion, such as kura kau­papa (Maori im­mer­sion schools), Nel­son be­ing the clos­est kura kau­papa in our area.

Maori Lan­guage Week is a great ini­tia­tive for te reo Maori, and it’s great to see schools and work­places get­ting in­volved.

We think the theme for this year’s Maori Lan­guage Week – par­ents pass­ing te reo on to their chil­dren – is great, be­cause with­out par­ents sup­port­ing the learn­ing of te reo Maori at home, the chil­dren will soon lose their reo. But for us here at Nga Puawai Ko­hanga Te Reo, Maori Lan­guage Week is ev­ery week.

Chil­dren at Te Ko­hanga Reo O Nga Puawai, from left, Atolo Veikoso, Jada Taoho, Jack Wick­ens and San­i­mata Veikoso.

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