'Safe space' new Māori medium unit to open at Nelson College

By Whatitiri Te Wake

A dream finally coming true is how one māmā describes the decision to have Māori medium available at both Nelson College and Nelson College for Girls. Despite the struggles to get to this point, Erina Tuhakaraina is excited to see how the students from both schools will develop.

Nelson College is the oldest state school in the country and now it's embarking on a new journey, establishing a Te Rumaki Whakatū – a Māori medium unit for the students at both Nelson College and Nelson College for Girls.

The news was welcomed by Year 9 student Izayah Tuitupoukutu who has come through Māori immersion in primary school and intermediate.

“It's like more a safe space. You can just say what you want, not be judged or laughed at. It's more of a safe space than going into the English medium,” he said.

His mother, Erina Tuhakaraina, also learned through total immersion in primary school and intermediate. The former deputy head girl at Nelson College for Girls says she is happy her son has the opportunity she didn’t have.

Standing proud

“To have my son travel right from primary at the age of five through Māori medium and to be there every step of the way, to support him into intermediate and now into college is just amazing,” she said.

It's a huge win for whānau in Nelson who have long advocated for Māori medium.

“We've had many whānau who have been passionate for many years and finally we feel heard.”

Tuhakaraina says there are many benefits for the kids. The main one is tamariki being able to stand proud in their Māori identity at school and out in the world.

“It's just so special to know that come term 3 our kids will able to learn te Ao Māori, the Māori world view,” she said.

Both schools now are focused on employing teachers to get the units up and running.