25 Sep 2020

Māori school to deliver ultimatum to ministry after delays to rebuild

1:52 pm on 25 September 2020

Te Rūnanga nui o ngā kura kaupapa says institutional racism is the cause of total immersion Māori schools being dropped down the list for repairs and rebuilds and they are fed up and calling on the Education Ministry to act.

Anton Matthews, the organiser of free te reo classes Christchurch.

Anton Matthews, board chair of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o te Whānau Tahi. Photo: RNZ/Conan Young.

Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o te Whānau Tahi, based in Christchurch, has been waiting more than a decade for their dilapidated mouldy and leaky school to be rebuilt.

The school was told by the Ministry of Education a rebuild would happen. But in June ministry officials then told them it would not happen due to having "no money" because of the pandemic.

The ministry has since apologised for that inaccurate and inconsistent information and says all options are still on the table.

The kura's deputy board chair, Anton Matthews, said they are meeting next week and they are giving an ultimatum to the ministry to rebuild the kura, in an acceptable time frame, on the current site.

"If we don't get that outcome then we will look at our further options and probably look to take further action. The Ministry of Education is pretty smart and intelligent and I think they understand their obligation under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. We hope it won't get to that point, but all options are on the table if they decide to brush us off like they have done for the last 10 years."

Matthews said the whole process has been distressing for whānau and they just want a solution.

"They know that it is taking a huge toll on the mental health of our kaiako and our whānau who work tirelessly to make sure that our tamariki don't feel the stress and pressure of having to learn in a kura that is unfit for purpose.

"Despite knowing all of that, their communication has been inconsistent to say the least, and it is becoming frustrating and one could argue it is becoming unprofessional.

"We think enough is enough and it's time to walk the talk like they say they are going to do," Matthews said.

In a statement, the Ministry of Education said it is committed to work in partnership with Christchurch's Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o te Whānau Tahi to find the right investment option for the kura.

Head of education infrastructure services Kim Shannon said options include remediating the existing buildings, rebuilding on their existing site and the potential to relocate to a new site. The statement said it is important that while they work together to find the right solution tamariki have a healthy and safe learning environment, and the ministry will continue to support them with any property issues that may arise in the meantime.

"We have apologised to Kura Kaupapa o te Whānau Tahi for our inconsistent and inaccurate communication concerning their property issues, and for the frustrations and uncertainty that caused," Shannon said.

Shannon emphasised Covid-19 has had no impact on either the availability or amount of property funding available to schools, including Kura Kaupapa o te Whānau Tahi.

Te Rūnanga nui o ngā kura kaupapa said Te Whānau Tahi is not an isolated case. Co-chair Rawiri Wright said it is a much wider issue with a number of kura around the motu in dire need of support for repairs and rebuilds.

"This is another example of institutional racism at work, because in this instance the Ministry of Education has been very slow in coming forward to help [TKKM] o Te Whānau Tahi.

"But they aren't the only ones, there are other kura kaupapa around the country who are in far worse situations and it is absolutely appalling. The ministry is ought to be ashamed of the conditions that we have had to continue to endure year by year."

As an example, he says TKKM o Ngā Mokopuna in Wellington has been waiting 16 years for a promised rebuild, while TKKM o Hurungaterangi, TKKM o Manurewa, Te Wharekura o Manurewa which are all among kura that have been waiting more than a decade to be rebuilt.

Wright said kura kaupapa are exceeding at much higher rates than other education options and high school retention rates remain high for students.

He said there has been some good working relationships established between TKKM and the ministry but meaningful engagement is needed.

"Do they go far enough? In terms of legislation and regulations the ministry has done nothing to support and promote the protection and the development of kura kaupapa Māori.

"We need to sit down with the ministry, we need these concerns to be acknowledged and then we need to see an action plan to be put together on a case by case basis so that meaningful progress is noted and can be chartered as we move through the next two years."

In a statement, the Ministry of Education said it is aware of the issues kura are facing.

"There are property issues for kura kaupapa Māori Te Aho Matua, Kura-a-Iwi and other kura Māori and we are working together to address these. In June, we released a 10-year strategy for school property to deliver greater equity for schools and their learners/ākonga," Kim Shannon said.

The ministry said it is addressing historical issues and supporting future aspirations for kura and ākonga, whānau, and kaiako.

It said it has a current investment of $75m delivering 39 projects across 37 kura, and an additional $40m is available for kura to respond to roll growth. It will work with kura and their boards of trustees in good faith to determine the right approach for the future of their ākonga, the ministry said.

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