Kawerau’s only Māori medium school Te Whatatau o Pūtauaki has achieved Wharekura status following an acknowledgment ceremony between themselves and the Ministry of Education yesterday afternoon.
Principal of the school since it began in 2012, Ripeka Lessels says, “Kawerau now has the option of continuing the total immersion schooling for their children to the secondary level.”
Currently the school has a roll of over 120 students from year 1 to 8 according to representatives of the Ministry of Education who attended the acknowledgment ceremony the process to achieve Wharekura status requires public consultation meetings and research data on the projection of student numbers.
In 2011, Kawerau underwent a restructure of their schooling systems which ended with the closing of a number of schools in the community and the establishment of a Māori medium and area school.
Snice then the only Māori medium school in the community, Te Whatatau o Pūtauaki saw that they needed to expand their teaching outcomes to cater for secondary school levels. Lessels attributes the vision for a Wharekura status to her late sister Te Orohi Paul who died suddenly last year.
“It was my sister that applied for the application, ran the consultation meetings and was passionate about keeping the children from Kawerau in Kawerau to complete their education,” says Lessels.
Students who had been attending Te Whatatau o Pūtauaki following the completion of year eight had to venture outside of Kawerau to continue their schooling in the Māori language the majority of those students attended Te Wharekura o Ruatoki.
Now students from Kawerau have the chance to continue their education in the Māori language within the community they live in.