National | Te Reo Māori

Solving racism: Mokopuna want te reo Māori compulsory in schools

They offer up their views in a new mokopuna voices report, released for Race Relations Day.

Both mokopuna Māori and mokopuna tauiwi (non-Māori) want learning of te reo Māori to be made compulsory from early childhood through to secondary school as a solution to end racism.

They offer up their views in a new mokopuna voices report, “Without racism Aotearoa would be better”: Mokopuna share their experiences of racism and solutions to end it, released today on Race Relations Day by Mana Mokopuna – the Children and Young People’s Commission.

The report, which includes insights from face-to-face discussions with 161 young people across the country who shared their “deep lived experiences of racism and how it is a barrier to living their best lives” between September 2022 and June 2023, shows racism is a persistent presence in the lives of many children and young people in Aotearoa and they have high aspirations and practical solutions to end it.

“In their own words, mokopuna share in the report that they experience racism and discrimination in both explicit and subtle ways, such as people judging them or making assumptions about their whānau and their culture. They share that racism can take the form of bullying and is experienced by them at a systemic, community, whānau and individual levels,” a Mana Mokopuna release says.

Chief Children’s Commissioner Dr Claire Achmad says mokopuna told them they wanted future generations to grow up free from racism.

“When we asked mokopuna to come up with solutions to eliminate racism across the motu, many shared their aspirations that future generations would not have to grow up experiencing it.

“They are also clearly saying that they want adults to truly listen to their experiences and solutions and take them seriously, and that action to end racism is essential.”

Embed te reo in education system

Dr Achmad says mokopuna have a right to be heard.

“Today is Race Relations Day and we share these direct voices of mokopuna so they can be heard by decision-makers, people with authority, communities and all New Zealanders. Children and young people have the right to participate in the matters affecting their lives, and we are hearing clearly that racism is an issue that’s negatively affecting mokopuna lives and they’ve got practical, actionable ideas to help end it.”

One of those actionable ideas is to make the learning of te reo Māori compulsory. Te ao Māori and te reo Māori are “very important in their lives”, the mokopuna Māori and mokopuna tauiwi told Mana Mokopuna.

The mokopuna want the solutions to racism made a firm part of the education system.

“They also told us that solutions to end racism should be embedded within the education system from its earliest point, and that it must reflect cultural diversity, inclusion and understanding. Mokopuna are calling for diversity to be represented among their teachers and on school boards and advocated for youth-led initiatives to build inclusive environments within schools,” the release says.

Dr Achmad says mokopuna deserve to grow up and have a “good life” and that New Zealanders all have an important role to play in this.

“Children and young people’s solutions look to spark change at the individual, community, societal and systemic levels, and remind us that we each have an important role to play to fulfil their aspirations for an Aotearoa free from racism.

“I’m inviting everyone to read this new report and take on board what young people are telling us. Let’s work together to build a country where all children and young people can grow up with a strong sense of belonging, be confident in being who they are, and where racism is no longer a barrier to living a good life.”