Call to end discrimination against Māori principals by their non-Māori counterparts

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

The principal of a Kawerau Māori medium school says it's time to end unconscious bias and racism towards Māori principals by their non-Māori counterparts.

Rīpeka Lessels says she is constantly challenged in her role by her colleagues and it needs to stop.

The head of Te Whata Tau o Putauaki says Māori principals are being discriminated.

“My education non-Māori colleagues are discriminating against Māori principals,” said Lessels.

“They don't believe in us. In our skills to run our schools, and in our contribution on committee boards, even though we are Māori.”

According to a new NZEI report senior primary school leaders are highlighting high levels of violence in schools, are subject to physical violence themselves, and experience bullying from other adults including colleagues.

NZEI President Lynda Stuart says discrimination is unacceptable.

“We expect our children to accept and understand and be empathetic and tolerant of others,” said Stuart.

“So our adults actually we should have the same expectations on them.”

Participation in the survey was voluntary through an interactive feedback website.

Lessels was one of the principals who took part and is calling on government agencies to address the issues.

“The government, Ministry of Education and NZEI Te Riu Roa need to address this,” she said. “They have the processes and solutions.”

“And that's about teaching people, that's about ensuring that there are culturally responsive practices happening, and for some places that means that we need to put some programmes in place to support that,” said Stuart. 

Lessels says a decolonisation working group needs to be established to work with all schools and teachers to educate them on where the attitude stems from.