Claim lodged over minimum wage for kōhanga reo teachers

By Taroi Black

Teacher aides in mainstream childhood centres on minimum wage earn more than most kōhanga reo kaiako / kaimahi who say they earn “crumbs” and are now seeking pay equity.

The largest education trade union, the  New Zealand Educational Institute – Te Riu Roa is hosting a four-day wānanga in Ōrākei with their members to try to get a pay increase for kaiako who get less than $20 per hour.

NZEI Māori strategic advisor (takawaenga) Shirley Hakaraia who is helping to facilitate this hui says, “Long gone are the days kaiako should get crumbs.”

"We’ve launched a claim to pursue pay equity for kohanga reo."

In May Education Minister Chris Hipkins said funding had been set aside to work with kōhanga reo to improve pay. His office referred Te Ao Maōri News to that statement. In it, he said: “Improving pay for staff in kōhanga reo is also important in light of the Crown’s Treaty obligations. The Crown intends to work collaboratively with Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust to agree how best to make this work in kōhanga reo.

"Pay parity is at the heart of the work we are doing to ensure those on lower wages are getting paid what they deserve for the job they do,”  he said.

The status of any negotiations with Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust is unknown. The trust board has been asked to comment but has not yet replied. 

While the four-day wānanga is targeting a pay increase under its campaign, Te Ake Rautangi, its kaupapa is also based on celebrating the success of the full-immersion Māori education model. This follows the Education Review Office report Te Kura Huanui released last week, which highlights tamariki excelling through kōhanga and kura kaupapa.   

There were five key areas that determined success for Māori learners: Mana Māori Motuhake; Tikanga Māori; Whanaungatanga; Ako; and Kanohi Whakakite.

“Mokopuna that come through kura Māori have a success rate of 69% while Māori students in mainstream schools had only  17.8%,” Hakaraia says.

The findings in the report by ERO, Māori-medium peak bodies – Te Rūnanga Nui o Ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori, Ngā Kura ā Iwi o Aotearoa, Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust and individual Māori-medium sites - saw a “strong connection and authentic engagement” that allowed education providers to work with whānau, hapū and iwi to achieve their goals. 

The government committed a four-year fund of $170 million in this year's budget, which early childhood education can access to pay their teachers.

However, this isn’t the case for kohanga reo because the Ministry of Education doesn’t recognise Te Tohu Whakapakari Tino Rangatiratanga, a three-year course that allows teacher aides to become fully qualified teachers that adds to quality funding for kohanga, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ōtara Principal Marama Hune says. “Mainstream early childhood educators get $24 -25 per hour – we want the same for kohanga reo."