This month the Waitangi Tribunal heard a claim for a parallel Māori education pathway. In this opinion piece, Kura Kaupapa Māori graduate Hikawai Te Nahu writes about what that means for Māori students. 

Kai aku nui, kai aku rahi, kai ngā mātāwaka puta noa i te motu nei, tēnā koutou.

He uri tēnei no ngā iwi maha o ngā waka o Te Arawa, o Tākitimu, o Horouta anō hoki. Ānei a Ngāti Whakaue, a Ngāti Rangiwewehi, a Ngāti Porou, a Te Aitanga a Hauiti, a Rongomaiwahine, a Te Whatuiapiti e mihi nei, e mihi nei, e mihi nei.

As a raukura (graduate) of Kura Kaupapa Māori, I was appalled to hear of the Ministry of Education’s treatment of a resource that is so important to the future of Māori.

For three weeks in April and May, I sat through the Waitangi Tribunal hearings for the claim by Te Rūnanga Nui o Ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori

The tribunal was told about the huge impact these schools have on Māori students despite the massive inequity in funding and resources. 

The basis of the claim to The Waitangi Tribunal is that the Crown and, in particular, the Ministry of Education, has failed in its duty to provide an appropriate education system for Māori children that upholds their identity, culture and language. The Crown has breached its promise to protect these 'taonga' as guaranteed in Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

At the Tribunal, Te Rūnanga Nui called for a parallel education pathway – run by Māori, for Māori, in Māori.

On April 26, the hearings for claim Wai 1718 began at Hoani Waititi Marae, Auckland, under the manākitanga of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi. In May, proceedings continued at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Mokopuna in Wellington.

Speakers for Te Rūnanga Nui left us in the audience in shock, awe and disbelief at what kura have accomplished for rangatahi Māori despite what they have had to endure in their dealings with the Ministry of Education.

We heard how one kura waited 12 years for the Ministry to approve new building designs after the Christchurch earthquake of 2011. Just last month, the designs were suddenly approved.

We heard from another kura that had to share their site with several other Ministry groups who had no regard for the safety of the children as they sped up the driveway and walked through the kura while smoking and speaking English. 

As those groups left over the years, buildings were removed or demolished without any consultation with the kura.

Hikawai Te Nahu. Photo: Supplied

The Tribunal was shown pictures of boarded-up toilets, iron bars over the windows and demolition rubbish discarded on the site when the Ministry handed the keys over to the kura. 

However, the Tribunal heard that within the last week, 75% of the funding for their wharekura build was finally deposited into their bank account after 10 years of fighting for it. 

Coincidence that the action starts to happen in the face of public examination? I don't think so.

While the purpose statement of the Ministry is to “shape an education system that delivers equitable and excellent outcomes”, results for Māori students in mainstream and other Māori Medium Education schools are well below Pākehā.

The same data showed that Kura Kaupapa Māōri students outperformed the average NCEA results for all mainstream students. This is despite – in 2023 – not being provided with a single textbook in Māori. 

An economist gave evidence, estimating a shortfall of nearly $300 million that’s owed to Kura Kaupapa Māori through under investment, missed opportunities and lack of resources.

The hearings revealed that the Ministry of Education had demonstrated a total lack of interest in its obligations to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. 

Consequently, Māori children have been denied an education that caters to their Māori well-being - physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. 

The Ministry’s lack of support for Kura Kaupapa Māori is shameful. Adequate and appropriate resourcing, equitable funding, and a governance model that promotes whānau involvement are non-existent.

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I was heartbroken to hear the horror stories of how our Kura Kaupapa Māori have been treated.

According to the hearings, second-hand, run-down, cold buildings and irrelevant Ministry resources are apparently okay for our Kura Kaupapa Māori children. 

In comparison, mainstream schools get new facilities and appropriate resources and don't have to wait decades for their basic academic necessities.

Heoi āno, as a raukura I received nothing but aroha and manākitanga from my Kura Kaupapa Māori. I received the best education a young Māori boy in Aotearoa could want. 

Despite beliefs that Kura Kaupapa Māori only provides Te Reo Māori, we were taught a broad range of subjects. I pursued and achieved Level Three maths, science, physics, and English. 

Now, I am in my final year at Auckland University, studying a conjoint Environmental Science degree with a Bachelor of Arts.

Ka mutu ki tēnei whatauāki – tamaiti ākona i Te Kura Kaupapa tū ana ki te ao tau ana: a child who has learned in the Kura Kaupapa Māori environment will prosper in all facets of their life.

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