Calls for school zones to be dropped for Māori

By James Perry

Te Akatea Māori Principal’s Association president Bruce Jepsen is continuing his call for the school zoning system to be overhauled to allow Māori students into schools within their tribal areas.

Jepsen has been travelling around the country visiting schools, in an attempt at what he calls "re-indigenising and decolonising" the education system. He says part of that endeavour is allowing ākonga Māori to be educated within their own rohe.

“We are tangata whenua, we are mana whenua and the mana and the whenua sits with our people. It's crazy to think that in this day and age we’d expect the indigenous and first peoples of this land to be in situations where they’re unable to attend kura in their own tribal lands,” he said.

He says Te Akatea has been "‘fighting" hard to get the government to acknowledge the place te ao Māori and mātauranga Māori have in the education area.

“This is an opportunity for the government to truly engage in Treaty-honouring ways and be part of this reindigenising and decolonising the system.”

Te Akatea has developed three programmes being rolled out in schools across the country that Jepsen says are aimed at turning the tide on Māori achievement rates in schools, and helping develop more Māori principals, while also upskilling non-Māori school staff to understand and ultimately implement whakaaro Māori into their school environment.

“This focus is a part of restoration and revitalisation which increases cultural continuity between home and kura for ākonga Māori. When we do this, we can expect that in those environments that privilege and naturalise the ways of knowing and being of our tupuna and whānau. We’d expect the success of Māori ākonga to increase as being demonstrated in the research.

“It’s early days yet, but this is what we expect to see. We’ve only just begun and it is our first year. It will be iterative it will be an amazing start to what will make a difference or new dawn of transformative Māori education.”