Debate continues on te reo Māori being compulsory in schools

By Maiki Sherman

The debate around whether the Māori language should be compulsory in schools across the country has reignited.

Pākehā businessman Gareth Morgan, is the latest to back the idea in his new book about the Treaty of Waitangi, while the NZEI is calling for greater support from the government.

Pita Paraone has laid down a challenge to ministers Hekia Parata and Te Ururoa Flavell.

The New Zealand First MP and former Chief Executive of the Māori Language Commission says having the Māori language compulsory in schools is in their hands.

Although Minister Parata is adamant the government's position will not change, Minister Flavell has a different idea.

Just like his little pups, Paraone says all primary and intermediate children should be taught the Māori language, and he's barking orders to the ministers.

 “At the moment, it's in their hands.  They have the power to make this happen.  If they don't support it, we're in trouble,” says Paraone.

Minister Flavell says the Māori Party has long been fighting this battle.

“The idea should be raised at Māori gatherings.  If the idea is not supported by the people, then it's a waste of time backing it,” he explains.

He says it's time to call in back-up.  “Hopefully there are those who see this message and can follow this issue through.  But we won't give up the fight,” says Minister Flavell.

However, Minister Parata says the government won't retreat.  She says, “The real enemy to oppressing the language is to make it compulsory. The importance of learning the language is that the student, the child and their family, want to learn.”

Mara Hune of NZEI says, “We don't want to force the Māori language on individuals.”  The government has found support in the NZEI, who say it is their resources instead that need to be strengthened.

“We want to fund language development classes to improve the quality of the language. Some of our children are still making mistakes,” says Hune.

Minister Flavell says, although it's an arduous journey, perseverance is key.

“The nation feared the Māori flag on top of the Auckland harbour bridge firstly and secondly on top of government buildings. At this stage, it's not an important issue,” says Flavell.

“If they want the world to change, the language to be taken up, it needs to start at primary and intermediate,” says Paraone.

It will certainly be an issue for the public to chew over.