From zero reo to full immersion kaiako

By Jessica Tyson

At one point Jamal Peeni could only speak two words of te reo Māori.  Now he’s been chosen to teach the language at one of the top te reo courses in Aotearoa.

The 22-year-old of Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Hine studied the full-time, full immersion te reo course Rumaki Reo at Te Wānanga Takiura o Ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori o Aotearoa in 2015.

This was followed by a three-year teaching degree at the wānanga.

Due to its popularity, Tumuaki Tawhirimatea Williams opened a third Rumaki Reo class this year and asked Peeni to be the kaiako.

“We chose him for a range of reasons," says Williams, "Firstly, because of his proficiency in te reo, the language flows naturally despite him only having been here for four years,” says Williams.

“He became adept at all different types of reo in those four years, including informal reo and karakia.  That was one of the reasons why I chose him.  I knew he had the knowledge of te reo.  He was excited to teach in te reo and was passionate about it.”

Peeni, who grew up in Whangarei, says when he first came to the wānanga in 2015 he was scared and shy about speaking te reo.

“I only knew two words.  I couldn’t even count to 10 in te reo," he says.

“It’s been amazing for my life, amazing for my family. I’m able to stand on the taumata now and speak and that’s something that sits right with me- within my wairua, within my heart- and makes me proud to be Māori.”

After being asked by Williams to be a kaiako, Peeni felt honoured.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to pursue since coming to Te Wānanga Takiura and it’s something that allows me to help others while doing something that I love.”

Jamal Peeni. Source: Te Kāea

Peeni says he loves te reo Māori because each word has its own tikanga and the language has an “ability to change someone’s outlook on something.”

“Its ability to change your thought pattern, not to something aggressive but to something beautiful.  You look at things with a different eye, you process things with a different eye.”

Peeni says he’s looking forward to teaching the tauira because he’s been in their shoes.

“I feel grateful that I got the experience of being in their position firstly so then I can adjust or change presentation style to help them.”

He says he hopes to help his students feel unafraid to make mistakes.

“Just try your best and try to enjoy the process even though it might be stressful sometimes.”