Marae go high tech

MONICA TISCHLER
Last updated 05:00 12/12/2013
Hoani Waititi

BROADENED LEARNING: Te Kura Kaupapa Maori pupils Destiny Korewha, 9, front, Nadia Watene, 8, and Tawhiri Taitau, 10, are among those that will benefit from the Wired Marae pilot.

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It's an exciting time to be a child learning at Hoani Waititi Marae.

Global information and opportunities will be brought into their classrooms through ultra fast broadband as part of a pilot programme.

Wired Marae is an initiative by Nga Pu Waea National Maori Broadband Working Group and will be rolled out across six North Island marae within a year.

The two year funded pilot will determine whether marae across the country be equipped with the technology.

Hoani Waititi Marae manager Rosie Abbott says it's an opportunity to bring the marae forward.

"While the marae is still a bastion of culture and a place where we can hark back to the treasures our ancestors have passed down, wireless broadband will connect those traditional values, processes and protocols to today's times," she says.

"It's about linking the past with the present and it's important our children aren't missing out on education opportunities because they're based on a marae."

Hoani Waititi only has wireless broadband in the wharenui, or meeting house, and kohanga reo and te kura kaupapa classrooms have four computers while the library has seven for students to use.

The pilot will enable staff and pupils to access wireless internet across the five-acre marae and take part in interactive Skype sessions as learning opportunities.

"It can connect children to the world and open their eyes. If the kohanga reo want to speak with another from a different tribe, they easily can," Ms Abbott says.

She says the tu taua Maori weaponry school and kapa haka classes have members living in Abu Dhabi, London, Hawaii and Australia and wireless broadband will enable regular Skype sessions or virtual classes to take place.

"It means that other branches of tu taua or kapa haka can be part of our programmes via Skype.

"It can be financially difficult for people to commute and the technology means we can encompass them by connecting electronically," she says.

Ms Abbott says Skype will also be an effective and easy medium for different tribes to communicate without having to travel distances yet it's still important for people to meet face to face.

"For important meetings like treaty settlements it's still important we retain our tikanga and front up face to face."

Tangi or funerals will also remain traditional ceremonies.

"We need to be careful we still maintain our principles - that's what makes a marae special.

"Our elders are very strict and staunch about tangi procedures," Ms Abbott says.

Nga Pu Waea member Tuwhakairiora Williams says the initiative will partner with telecommunications provider Chorus Limited to introduce technology to marae environments.

"It's about making marae living, breathing and relevant environments and will open up the marae community," he says.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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