Reset in Māori education required - NZ Māori Principals Assoc

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

It seems distance learning during Lockdown has highlighted inequities for many whānau during COVID-19.

The Education community has publicly voiced its concerns to the Epidemic Response Committee that it hasn't been impressed with the government's response to education.

The New Zealand Māori Principals Association says a reset in Māori education is required immediately.

Chairman for the New Zealand Māori Principals Association, Myles Ferris says, " We were concerned for a number of our tamariki that we knew would not be able to engage.

"We know of so many places around the country that don't have internet service.  Many of our tamariki don't have devices.

"Ourselves [NZ Māori Principals Association] and New Zealand Pasifika weren't invited to the table in the first instance. When we got into the room, we looked around the room and it was pretty white."

Despite having more Māori voices now than in the beginning, Myles believes that the Epidemic Response Committee think Māori as an afterthought. 

"We're still concerned about how we are treated and how we have been invited to the table, not only just to provide advice but actually to make decisions.

"We still have this issue around tino rangatiratanga and mana motuhake where we still have things being done to us, rather than Māori making decisions for Māori and education," explains Ferris.

"Quite clearly there are good people in the room, we've known this for a while, people who have an affinity for Māori and want Māori to succeed - that's not the issue."

"In terms of what we would have done more effectively, I think we would have emphasised more the need to get connections for our tamariki.

"Our devices are going out but we are well aware that plenty of places around the country haven't received their devices. I don't think they were necessarily targeted to the children who really required it, and the work that was done to provide internet service for our people has been very slow.

"It is a systemic problem that needs to be addressed and it needs to be addressed now because we have so many of our tamariki that effectively can't research after school. They can't do anything after school to enhance their learning - it has highlighted the real inequity in our system."

As schools prepare to reopen on May 18 under Alert Level 2 and education in the classroom would certainly be different once again, Ferris discussed how he would reset the system to ensure the best possible future for tamariki. 

"We don't want to go back to a system where it wasn't working pre-COVID-19 - it wasn't working for us," he says.

"In saying that, the Ministry & the Government have been very, very proactive in inviting Māori to the table to try and come up with better ideas moving forward.

"We have asked the Minister [Chris Hipkins] to push and set a goal for 30 per cent of Māori tamariki in full immersion Level 1 Rāngai Māori by 2032. It's going to need a systemic, strategic plan in order to grow more kura and kōhanga right across the country so that every Māori child has equal and free access to Rāngai Māori education.

"We're also asking for the development of a Māori education authority. It is something that we wanted as Māori making decisions for Māori. The Pākehā system has been able to make those decisions for far too long and we're still not getting the progress we need."

He says the aim is for Māori to make decisions on Māori education, not just on policy but from a financial perspective as well.