Kōhanga reo shortage across New Zealand leaves Māori whānau desperate

Taylor Hohepa grew up in kōhanga reo and kura kaupapa and she wants the same for her pēpi. Unfortunately, enrolling her daughter has been a struggle and most of the kōhanga reo she’s contacted have waitlists of up to two years. 

“At the moment, baby attends day care because there’s no spaces at any kōhanga,” Taylor says.

“Her dad and I are getting a bit worried about how long it’s taking to enrol baby, but what can you do.”

Since its inception, the Kōhanga Reo movement has been crucial in the revitalisation of te reo Māori. There’s over 440 kōhanga across the country and thousands of tamariki immersed in their language and culture every day. However, due to high demand and limited roll numbers, many whānau are missing out on the opportunity to have their tamariki experience the benefits of Kōhanga Reo. 

Kōhanga Reo teacher, Raumanuka Ramuka says that building limitations and a lack of teachers are major reasons that Kōhanga Reo are struggling to accommodate demand from whānau.

“Most Kōhanga Reo are based in old buildings, so that’s a big reason why lots of families are struggling to enrol their tamariki”

“The number of spaces on the roll are limited due to the quality or size of the building.” 

Recent years have seen an increase in budget support from the government and Raumanuka is encouraged by the support. But there’s a long way to go in ensuring that all tamariki Māori have the option to attend kōhanga. 

For Taylor and her whānau, the wait continues but she says that she’ll continue to fight because it is her pēpi’s birth right to be immersed in her culture and language. 

“Absolutely, all Māori children should have access to Māori medium education and knowledge.”

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