Regional | Kōhanga Reo

Whare Mārama Kōhanga Reo turns 40

One of the oldest kōhanga reo in the country, Whare Mārama Kōhanga Reo, in Rātana Pā, celebrated 40 years during the weekend.

The celebration brought together past and present students and staff of the kōhanga. Many memories were shared of those who made it possible for the kōhanga to be established 40 years ago.

The first kaiako, Te Rangi Hemi (1983-1985) still remembers the day the kōhanga opened.

Hemi says, “The kohanga reo started on September 9, 1983. It was a response from the people of the community of Rātana Pā to have a kōhanga reo in Rātana Pā itself because of the fact that there were a lot of mokopuna in the community and also it was to say that we need to retain our te reo Māori. So, we decided that we would respond, the community responded and then on September 9, 30 mokopuna enrolled into our kōhanga reo.”

The Rātana faith and its belief of the māramatanga is still the foundation of the kōhanga.

Hemi also says, “So my aspiration is that our kōhanga continues to grow, and that the kaupapa of our māramatanga, which has always been the foundation of our kōhanga reo anyway, that’s just going to continue on, mō ake tonu, forever, and that our kaiako be fully trained, and that they know all the aspects of good teaching qualities for our mokopuna, in our language, in our te reo Māori.”

The community was fortunate at the time to have received support from Rātana Pā community members and from outside the pā also.

“And in my staff at the time, I had two nannies, Nanny Mere Williams, and Nanny Rehita Maraku. On the staff at the time was Whaea Hune Mateparae, Karangi Hamahona, and we had a lot of kaiāwhina working with us as well. At the time, we were under the scheme of the Māori Affairs Department at the time. And so, we had people like Henare Bennett and Ngaere Mako who came to support us with pūtea for us to start off our kōhanga reo,” Hemi said.

Hemi chairs the kōhanga and has seen many changes within the movement over the years.

“When I was kaiako, there were no training programmes for us at all. Until now. The national trust was able to obtain funding to support the training of our kaiako, which has happened from that time right up to now, to the present year. And, the most successful one of course for us would be the fact that now the Ministry of Education funds our kaimahi, that they’re all on the same line as other institutes, like kindergartens and playcentres. Our kaimahi now get the same type of salaries as they do.”

The original site for the kōhanga was at the Rātana marae but a decision was made to move the kōhanga up to the local school grounds in 1986.

“The fact that we’re able to obtain our own building and through the support that we got from Te Kura, Te Kura o Rātana at the time, who helped us, actually assisted us to get a building of our own and the building was brought onto the site on part of the kura property as well. And that initiative was because we knew that the tamariki from kōhanga reo would make that natural transition into the kura.”

The current kaiako at Whare Mārama Kōhanga Reo is former student Kimi Hemi, and there are three kaiāwhina. The current roll is 18 students.