Politics | Waitangi

A need for systemic change to make education ‘sexy’

The Kīngitanga’s Rahui Papa addresses the coalition government on an important issue beyond the Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Rahui Papa speaking at the 2024 Waitangi treaty grounds.

Kīngitanga spokesperson Rahui Papa broke into English in his speech at Waitangi today to specifically address Prime Minister Chris Luxon.

Papa said that both He Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti o Waitangi were important parts of the relationship between Māori and non-Māori and were at the top of their concerns.

But Papa noted that at the Hui ā-motu, Rātana celebrations, and Iwi Chairs Forum, Luxon had opinions about Māori education.

“We want to say to you that that is fantastic but we shouldn’t just focus on the truancy question: We should focus on the systemic change that makes education sexy.

“We’ve got to figure out what makes them (children) go to school that makes our tamariki use the lakes and the rivers and moana and the maunga as their classroom in every community and context in the country.”

The coalition government ministers listening while Rahui Papa speaks.

Papa also suggested that the government doesn’t pass the Treaty of Waitangi principles bill past the first reading but instead put the same amount of energy that David Seymour had put into the Treaty of Waitangi bill to protect their founding documents.

Luxon in previous speeches has argued Māori have not thrived under the Labour Party and that there has been a decline in children attending school in the last six years.

Papa says that they’re happy to work with the government if they wish to help Māori thrive in education.

“We want to help you, to work with you to make solutions on both sides for our tamariki and mokopuna to not only attend school but to also achieve the highest education pursuit.

“Not only in a Western education model but in our cultural context as well. When fresh practice and tikanga come together, our tamariki are just so bloody awesome.”

After Shane Jones, David Seymour, and Deputy Prime Minister Winstone Peters spoke, Luxon had this to say about Māori education: “I’ve spoken a lot about education since becoming leader of the National Party and I will continue to do so, because it is the thing that worries me the most. How can a first-world country have 55% of our kids not attending school regularly and our children not knowing the basics well? It’s a future moral and economic disaster.

“So, our government will do its part by backing our Kaupapa Māori education system, reintroducing partnership schools, investing in structured literacy, teaching the basics well, and setting clear targets focused on attendance and achievement so that our kids can have the futures they all deserve.”