Tūtūtarakihi gets its wings to fly

By Tumamao Harawira

After years of hard slog, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Tūtūtarakihi in the Far North has been granted their application for stand-alone status.

In 2018, Tūtūtarakihi had its beginnings in the small community of Ōturu just a few kilometres north of Kaitaia. Originally started as a satellite classroom for Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Rangi Āniwaniwa, and more recently Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi, the goal for the whānau of Tūtūtarakihi was to establish a localised curriculum that focused on the environment and the maramataka.

Kura principal, Rangimārie Pōmare, says the whānau had a very clear idea as to what they wished their kura to be. Tūtūtarakihi wanted to have the natural environment as a foundation for its teachings, as well as drawing on life skills to support whānau development.

"In this pā kāinga of Ōturu, we really wanted a school that focused on the environment through a Māori lens and through maramataka, and to ensure that the language would be retained in Te Hiku," she says.

"We are really ecstatic and are feeling at peace, but we know that the job isn't finished. There is still so much more to do."

According to Wikatana Popata, the partner of Pōmare, the drive to get the kura full status as a Kura Kaupapa Māori was a long journey, and Pōmare says, "When you are a satellite school, you are effectively a classroom of another school. So we didn't have the resources necessary to run a school, like being able to pay teachers."

Popata says despite the struggles with the Ministry of Education, the onus is on the students of Tūtūtarakihi to take the kura forward. "It's up to our generation, ngā rangatahi, to take this kaupapa into the future. Holding the Ministry of Education to account to make sure they are doing right by Kura Kaupapa is a good start."

Whānau first applied for full status in February 2020 and the decision to grant the kura this position was supposed to be announced in June, but continued delays by the ministry meant that the decision was released in the last week.

Pōmare and Popata are both graduates of Te Aho Matua, a system of learning that was developed as the basis for all Kura Kaupapa Māori in Aotearoa. Pōmare says the legacy of Te Aho Matua is something very close to their hearts and is a platform for them to preserve, but also to expand upon.

"We are both very lucky to have grown up under Te Aho Matua and this is our embodiment of what Te Aho Matua means to us. We want to add subjects that we didn't necessarily get to learn while at Kura Kaupapa Māori, like financial literacy."