12 Apr 2021

Lawyer's New Zealand history resource website hobby helps teachers with kaupapa

6:09 pm on 12 April 2021

A Māori lawyer is creating interactive online resources to help primary school teachers gain the knowledge needed to teach Aotearoa's history and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

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Photo: Supplied

Roimata Smail has spent 16 years as a human rights and public law lawyer specialising in discrimination against Māori, but during her own time Smail has added a collection of new resources to her online learning website Wai Ako.

Smail is regularly involved in discrimination cases where an absence of knowledge about New Zealand's history becomes clear.

"What we see in those cases is just repeating a modern version of things that happened one hundred years ago.

"It's playing out today still in the problems that Māori are facing ... it's really easy to blame individuals for where they find themselves today."

Smail said there was a gap when it came to helping teachers who had not got a breadth of te reo and Te Tiriti o Waitangi expertise.

She said: "sometimes we forget how teachers coming through, didn't get to learn these things themselves.

"For example with te reo, it's actually really hard to teach te reo to 30 children if you're a beginner yourself."

Wai Ako was initially started as a tool for learning te reo Māori because Smail's husband, who is a primary school teacher, was seeking help incorporating te reo into lessons in his classroom.

It includes materials such as waiata, animations and cartoons which combine to help teach kaupapa Māori.

The latest instalment to her website is a range of teaching aids especially for primary school teachers and children.

They include cartoon characters alongside simple waiata in te reo to help classrooms as well as their kaiako grasp information about the history of Aotearoa and the Māori language.

"They're really simple, even for five-year-old children which there really aren't any resources for.

"It makes it even easier for the teacher to just press 'play' as a beginner and just join their students," Smail said.

She said it was in preparation for the government's compulsory teaching of New Zealand history which starts next year.

It was really great that the next generation and her own children would get the opportunity to gain that knowledge, Smail said, an opportunity she was never given in school.

"Me, like others, we didn't get the opportunity to learn it and that's really contributing to us having all of these cases about discrimination against Māori," she said.

Smail would like to see schools around Aotearoa support their teachers teaching kaupapa Māori.

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