Over 30 graduates of Kōhanga Reo awarded scholarships

By Piripi Taylor

Over 30 Kōhanga Reo scholarships were awarded at a ceremony held in Wellington today. The scholarships will assist students studying at a Doctorate PhD level, at undergraduate and Masters level, all of whom are former graduates of Kōhanga Reo.

Hona Black of Ngāi Tūhoe, Te Whānau a Apanui and Tūwharetoa was the recipient of the top award, the Sir James Henare Scholarship valued at $10,000. The Kōhanga Reo graduate is studying towards a PhD degree. The topic for his thesis looks at how the Māori language is being taught and learned in schools and how there is merit in making mistakes and good from being wrong.

He says "the subject came from when I was teaching in school. I would hear the language being used by the youth and understanding that yes, kids make mistakes. So my main focus is what are the things that drives the language amongst the youth and welcoming errors to be corrected."

He say the scholarship will help pay the bills to survive. "We all know that Māori research involves sustained engagement with whānau. Alot of travel and giving koha etc. So hopefully it will cover all those types of costs," he says.

It's the second year of the Kōhanga Reo Alumni Foundation as a future framework for greater opportunities for the 40,000+ who have come through Kōhanga Reo since it's inception.

Daniel Procter of the Kōhanga Reo National Trust says the great thing about this event is that you're now seeing see a new generation who were taught by their grandfathers and grandmothers in kōhanga throughout who have returned.

Five scholarships, valued at $2000 were also awarded to students studying at Masters Level. One of whom is the granddaughter of the very first patron of The Kōhanga Reo Movement and daughter of the current patron, King Tūheitia. Ngāwaihono-o-te-pō Paki says her dissertation derives from the teachings of her ancestress, Te Puea Hērangi.

She says 'the hope is from that, we will find solutions for my people in Waikato and have a deeper understanding behind those teachings and look at what learnings there are for us in the present."

20 graduates will also receive assistance toward their studies that includes all academic programs up to the level of a bachelor's degree.

Procter says, "the main objective of today is for our graduates to return to the Kohanga Reo movement."

Black adds "it's good to see us who have grown from being raised in te reo Māori. The young one here today are the embodiment of years of hard work but are achieving the will of our elders."

It is from this that the foundation for the graduates bases itself on - "He oha nā mua, he oha mā tai".

"One of the sayings of my grandmother" says Paki "was, may the teachings within you flourish. That's being realised here with the kōhanga reo."