Hikoi marches against kohanga reo discrimination

  • 24/07/2011

An urgent claim to the Waitangi Tribunal today is alleging discrimination against Te Kohanga Reo.

A recent report by the Early Childhood Education Taskforce says the 30-year-old Maori language school system has to operate in the same manner as early childhood centres.

But protesters say Te Kohanga Reo needs to be left in the hands of Maori, after years of bumping heads with the Ministry of Education.

They say Kohanga should no longer come under the control of the ministry and be given statutory recognition as an independent and stand-alone initiative.

Kohanga are a full-immersion centre for preschoolers, and kaumatua claim they aren't funded by the Crown as they are not recognised as qualified or registered.

There are also disputes over health and safety regulations which stipulate kohanga have to be fenced off from the marae and that sleeping children should be separated.

Labour Party MP Shane Jones says his party recognises the importance of Te Kohanga reo.

"Early childhood education has been a train wreck over the last two-and-a-half years and the reality is that any suggestion that kohanga reo is going to be assimilated by Anne Tolley, no Maori is going to agree with that. I find it astounding actually that they have let the issue go this far," he says.

Mr Jones says Labour believes 'the grassroots of te reo are at risk'.

But Maori Party co-leader Dr Pita Sharples says the Government knows all this, and is working on a solution.

"“The Government recognises the Kohanga Reo desire for recognition as a distinct kaupapa Maori that does not fit within current definitions of early childhood education"

“We are currently working through a process of dialogue with the Kohanga Reo National Trust, and I have a meeting scheduled to discuss these issues in the next fortnight," he says.

Protesters have organised a hikoi from Wellington Cenotaph to the Waitangi Tribunal on The Terrace, with hundreds of supporters in tow.

Their claim has been written by lawyer Mai Chen, which kaumatua say is a coup.

Ms Chen is acting for the Trust Board, which represents 471 Te Kohanga Reo.

The board are reported to be unhappy they were not involved in the creation of the ECE Taskforce report and fears Te Kohanga Reo will no longer exist in five years if the recommendations go through.

Protesters at today's hikoi said the report would be the beginning of the end for te reo Maori if implemented.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said everyone has a chance to contribute to the report during its two-month consultation report and that the ECE Taskforce was an independent group.

She pointed to Government support of Te Kohanga Reo, which would be given over $50 million this year as well as having the 20 hours early childhood education subsidy extended to it last year.

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source: newshub archive