Maori schools lodge Waitangi Tribunal complaints
Christchurch's Maori schools are lodging complaints with the Waitangi Tribunal over their planned merger.
The Education Ministry last week released details on the future of Christchurch schools, including proposals to close 13 schools and merge 18.
The plan includes merging Christchurch's Te Kura Kaupapa Maori immersion schools.
The board chairman of the Te Whanau Tahi school in Spreydon, Huata Martindale, said a merger with Te Kura Whakapumau Te Reo Tuturu Ki Waitaha in Woolston would accelerate the Government's proposed charter school trial in Christchurch and South Auckland.
''Speculation is that the intention is to divide the schools in order to create a student intake for the new charter school that is targeting Maori,'' he said.
Martindale said merging the two kura would be like "trying to combine a Catholic diocese with a Jewish synagogue".
He said the schools were not badly affected by the earthquakes and the merger was a "neo-liberal political agenda".
Charter schools can employ untrained teachers, set their own staff pay rates, choose their own staff and set curriculum and term dates.
Martindale said the school would ''fully oppose'' the merger.
Both schools will lodge complaints with the tribunal today and will deliver a rejection letter to Christchurch's Education Ministry offices on Thursday.
Mana Party MP Hone Harawira described the proposal as ''totally dumb''.
''The education minister [Hekia Parata] is a Maori minister and she's trying to shut down a Te Kura Kaupapa. I just can't believe how totally dumb that is,'' he said.
Harawira said a charter school aimed at Maori pupils should not be created at the expense of existing Te Kura Kaupapa schools.
''If Ngai Tahu wants to pursue charter schools, or if they want to back one, then that's fine, but it's got nothing to do with Te Kura Kaupapa,'' he said.
Parata said she spoke with the board heads of the two Maori schools last Wednesday, as well as the group representing them.
''They have gone away to think about it. Some are upset, others see the opportunity. That is the nature of this process and we look forward to continuing the discussion with them,'' she said.
Father Jared Riwai-Couch, who has four children at the Spreydon school, said he felt ''totally shocked'' about the news.
He said he understood some Ngai Tahu families were supportive of a charter school aimed at Maori pupils.
''And we're OK with the [charter school] idea but it doesn't make sense to merge the Te Kura Kaupapa because there's been no significant change to them since the earthquakes,'' he said.
Ngai Tahu has not responded to The Press.
Stephanie Richardson, who has two sons at Te Whanau Tahi, said the proposed merger was counterproductive.
''Historically, we had such a struggle to try to create schools where children would become fluent in both te reo and English and there are only two in Christchurch, so if this goes ahead, there will be no choice,'' she said.
The ministry's website shows the combined rolls of the two schools dropped to 151 in March 2012 from 196 in 2010.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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