Te Wiki o te Reo Māori is a time for all of New Zealand to embrace our indigenous language and attempt to speak selected words, perhaps attend a class, switch our social media platforms to a complementing version and perhaps have a morning tea or tea te ata to celebrate.
Once this annual week has ended, the signs come down and the struggle for Māori to keep promoting the use and keep our history alive is back to its usual levels. But not for one educational facility in Palmerston North. In this one centre, Te Reo Māori is the only language they speak, the only language they teach and the belonging community is flourishing.
Mana Tamariki – an education centre catering from birth to high school, was established in late 1989 to help satisfy the demand for kohanga reo in the community. In 1990 they became the sixth Kohanga Reo in Palmerston North. But by 1995 they were unique in their offering of Te Reo Māori – Mana Tamariki was now a total immersion language school.
This meant that all tamariki from birth would be cared for, taught and educated purely in Te Reo Māori. And that’s not all. Outside of the centre, at least one parent or guardian must commit to speaking Te Reo Māori consistently with their child. The parent may speak English to others in the home or outside, but never English to the child. This fosters a strong te reo relationship with the child – an important part of the learning story.
Early on, Mana Tamariki struck challenges with matching the curriculums in other educational facilities, whilst still maintaining the importance of whanau in learning. Nearly all resources available were in English, with very little available and ready to be included in a total immersion Māori centre. Learning stories in particular, was a focus that needed some work.
Nathan Li – founder of Educa - an app designed to assist the communication of learning stories and updates between centres and parents – was motivated to make the Educa app accessible and useful to a much wider community. Primarily Nathan’s app was built for an English speaking market, but after learning of this remarkable centre, Nathan started a translation project of his app into Te Reo Māori.
Engaging with Piripi Walker – a specialist once hired to translate Microsoft Office to Te Reo Māori - Nathan began the translation project and supplied the finished product to Mana Tamariki to check its worth in their centre. Mana Tamariki were delighted with the translation and it is now being rolled out to parents of children at the centre to complement their love of learning of their Tikanga.
The current roll at Mana Tamariki sits at 85 – spread over Kohanga, Kura and High School students in a remarkable, integrated setting. Upon designing the building, the students were invited to contribute towards how they would like their centre to look. Unlike most schools with individual classrooms, it was requested that an open area be achieved with shared facilities across the property, so siblings could easily visit and share meals and break times with each other – all of this strengthening the kaupapa of whanau connectivity in learning – that plays a huge part of purpose of Mana Tamariki.
Kaitiaki of Mana Tamariki, Brenda Soutar, is pleased with the use of Educa in her centre so far, citing a time saving and ease of getting documentation of the Tamariki development out to parents while maintaining high quality.
“It’s also requiring us to step it up regarding our own technical knowledge. As Māori kanohi-ki-te-kanohi (face to face) is an integral to the way we carry out relationships so we will still maintain that type of contact with our parents, but we do need to be courageous with new technology and keep up. The digital world is moving at such a speed and as Māori, we do not want to be left behind. We expect to be at the forefront of innovation and change so that it happens for us in culturally appropriate ways”
Visit educa.co.nz for more information on the app and its developments.