Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Otepou celebrate their 125th birthday

By Taroi Black

A Tauranga school is setting the bar high in teaching New Zealand history, despite the Prime Minister finally making it compulsory. This comes as Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Otepou reached a major milestone. 

School principal Vianne Douglas says, "I know that some in Aotearoa understand its history of the land but it is important for our children."

Poihaere Walker, a former student, remembers tough times attending Otepou in the 1940s.

"When we came to the kura, we weren't allowed to speak Māori. Engari, he native school i tēra wā."

Today also marks 26 years since kura kaupapa was introduced into the Tauranga region for places like Otepou. 

"We weren't allowed to do anything Māori except what we were taught, which was only crafts and maybe a bit of kapa haka," Walker says. 

Now, future generations have gained the opportunity to express their Māoritanga. 

Phoenix Baker, a current student, says, "We're learning about the historic battle that happened at Pukehinahina. We also learn more about the Treaty of Waitangi."  

Douglas says New Zealand history impacting on Māori has always been a priority, despite the government finally making it compulsory in schools by 2022.  

"It's important to learn about Māori issues for our children because they will lead us one day," she says.