Immersion school's language mission

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 13:00 05/02/2014
Merita Waitoa-Paki
MARTIN de RUYTER/Fairfax NZ
NEW FOCUS: Merita Waitoa-Paki, tumuaki (principal) of Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tuia Te Matangi, Maori Language Immersion School in Richmond.

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Nelson's only Maori immersion school plans on getting more involved with the Richmond community to build up te reo Maori in the region this year.

Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tuia te Matangi, in Richmond, has 57 students from year one through to year 12, and students must speak only Maori at the school. The schools is mostly made up of juniors; there are nine in the senior school and students come from as far as Motueka and Atawhai. The school reopened last week. It is coming into its second year after it opened in July last year, and principal Merita Waitoa-Paki said the kura was crucial to bring back te reo Maori to the region.

"The Maori language is near dead in the whole Nelson, Tasman, Marlborough area, there are only a few under 50 [years old] that actually can have a conversation in te reo Maori and speak with confidence on their own marae," she said.

The school was set up as a starting point for that revitalisation, and hoped it would spread the language through the community.

And it is the community that the school wants to get involved with this year.

Last year it was set on building up the school and setting out what it wanted to achieve, while this year it would focus on taking part in the Richmond community and getting other people involved with the school.

She said it has been "full speed ahead" since opening the school in 2012 but she was excited about engaging with the community through 2014.

"We want to be able to invite Waimea and St Paul's and be able to engage with the wider community and establish good relationships."

She said the school would be taking part in inter-school sport competitions and learning would be focused outside the classroom as much as in it this year.

"In such a beautiful landscape we have a lot of trips away, the junior class going to Boulder Bank then to Waikawa (Picton), then we have a whole school outing to Onetahua (Farewell Spit) at the marae there."

The school worked to its own curriculum and philosophy, with an open learning system where students would work in groups of varying ages.

The whanau of the students were also invited to be involved with the school as much as they could.

"We had a father who took off every Friday from his mahi (work), his boss let him, so he could come here sit with his four boys - he's Pakeka - to learn Maori."

The school will continue to hold monthly meetings at NMIT, where whanau could meet with the school to discuss school strategy and take part in workshops.

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Mrs Waitoa-Paki said they had lost some students last year because their whanau had felt the school was not right for them because there were not as many options at the kura for senior students as at mainstream schools.

"There are some students that want to go out and go to a school with more opportunities; that was never hidden, that was definitely exposed to all whanau who wanted to bring their children who were older. We will be delivering a quality education, but they need to know the opportunities they had in a mainstream school might not be directly available at this time. But we are still always looking for specialist teachers that have the reo to be able to teach in that area."

The school offers field Maori NCEA and works with Kip McGrath to do English and maths at year 11. Other senior students have the opportunity to work in the trades academies, studying hospitality, engineering and sport.

Mrs Waitoa-Paki felt the roll of the school was settled and the students who were at the school would be the foundation students for the school's te reo movement.

- The Nelson Mail

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