This year marks the 30th birthday of Te Tai Rāwhiti's first full-immersion Māori language school. Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Taonga Tūturu ki Tokomaru celebrated its legacy reflecting on fostering the language and Māori identity since it's inception.
A kōhanga was started by the community in the 1980s, and the Kura Kaupapa Māori was established in 1991.
Nine-year-old James Iraia Forrester loves going to school. "We do reading, maths. I really like reading books - it nourishes my mind with Māori words. Because when you're writing and you don't know a word, you have to look in the book and if you find the new word you then know it. Te Reo is great because it's chiefly and, when there's a new word you have to learn it, you must know all the Māori words in the world."
Teacher and elder Iwiata Williams has been at the kura since 1999, and says the delivery of education has been grounded in Mātauranga Māori, "We didn't have resources, it was the brainpower of the teachers who taught the children. The language was direct. Mōteatea were used to teach, and Pātere. Who composed them? The tohunga of Ngāti Porou. The Ngā Mōteatea books were used to educate the children. As well as the histories of Ruataupare and Te Aotāwarirangi, those are the resources."
The teachers say in the school's 30 years of operation they haven't really felt the support of the government but, through the tireless efforts of the families and the community the buildings have remained n safe educational shelter for their children and grandchildren.
"It was the strength of my kūia and koroua. If they didn't stand resolute and instruct the Government, what would we do? Where would our school be? We've heard how they were beaten for speaking Māori at Pākehā schools, so they thought here is the pathway for their descendants to retain our noble language, but not just the language but the customs and protocol handed down over generations", says Iwiata Williams.
There are thirty students enrolled at the school at this time.
James Iraia Forrester says, "I love Te Reo because it's a noble language, it's the language of Ngāti Porou."