8 Feb 2022

Claim filed to Waitangi Tribunal over alleged Crown breach of Kura Kaupapa obligations

11:08 am on 8 February 2022

Te Rūnanga nui o ngā Kura Kaupapa has filed an urgent Waitangi Tribunal claim alleging the Crown has breached the treaty in its obligations to Kura Kaupapa.

The board game, Ngāti Ranginui funded by Te Aho Ngārahu.

Te Aho Matua was legislated through the Education (Te Aho Matua) Amendment Act 1999. (File image of Kura Kaupapa resources) Photo: RNZ / Meriana Johnsen

The urgent claim filed in October 2021 on behalf of all 63 kura and the whānau of 6500 students nationwide.

Lead claimant, te reo Māori stalwart, Dr Cathy Dewes said "this is about the right of tamariki Māori to grow and develop as Māori through a Kaupapa Māori schooling option."

The claim also concerns the active protection and promotion of Kura Kaupapa Māori Te Aho Matua as a taonga in their own right and as critical agents in the maintenance and transmission of te reo Māori as a first language of tamariki Māori.

Te Aho Matua was legislated through the Education (Te Aho Matua) Amendment Act 1999 following a concerted effort by Te Rūnanga Nui for official recognition of Te Aho Matua as the foundational philosophy of Kura Kaupapa Māori.

But Dr Dewes said for the past 35 years, the Crown had failed to uphold the tenets of Te Aho Matua and alleged the relationship with the Crown was at breaking point, and the Crown had breached and was continuing to breach its Te Tiriti o Waitangi obligations and stated commitments to Kura Kaupapa Māori and Te Rūnanga Nui

The claim sets out that they are prejudicially affected by acts and omissions of the Crown and existing and pending Crown legislation, policy and regulatory frameworks.

Claimants say since the first established Kura Kaupapa in 1985 (Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi), the Crown, through the Ministry of Education, has largely treated Kura Kaupapa Māori as part of the mainstream compulsory schooling sector and that over time, there have been different groups within the ministry dealing with Kura Kaupapa Māori through a mainstream lens.

This, they say, has significant impacts due to the fundamentally different philosophical and operational frameworks to mainstream schools, with tamariki and whānau at the centre. And that Kura Kaupapa Māori are immersed entirely in te reo Māori, and usually have to grapple with system and policy issues with the ministry entirely in English.

"In the 35 years since the establishment of Kura Kaupapa Māori, the Crown has not worked with Te Rūnanga Nui to develop a long-term strategy or plan to grow and support Kura Kaupapa Māori," they say.

"The ministry's own key Māori education and te reo Māori strategies, Ka Hikitia (as refreshed over time) and Tau Mai Te Reo, have contained no clear goals relating the future of Kura Kaupapa Māori."

Dr Cathy Dewes said high on the wish list was the establishment of a Māori Education Authority that allowed Kura Kaupapa Māori Aho Matua along with all kaupapa Māori educational institutions to operate autonomously.

Te Rūnanga said despite opposition by the Crown and the Ministry of Education in December 2021, Te Rūnanga remained hopeful that its claim would be heard under urgency by the Waitangi Tribunal in the coming months.

RNZ has contacted the Ministry of Education for a response.

In a statement, associate minister for education Kelvin Davis agreed that tamariki Māori needed better Māori Medium and Kaupapa Māori education options.

"That is why consultation on a transformational Māori Medium education programme has been ongoing before the last election and has included Kura Kaupapa representatives throughout."

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Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Davis said Rūnanga had decided not to participate in that opportunity at the moment.

"I respect their decision and would welcome their return to the table, but I will not wait any longer while I have the ability as a Māori Minister to improve things for the current and future generations of Māori learners," Davis said.

"This kaupapa is about the right of Māori children to attend education. It is not specific to a particular stream or organisation but will be developed alongside Māori."

More information on this work, including a timeline and makeup of an independent group to oversee the work, will be released later this week.

Davis said there was an option for Kura Kaupapa to take a parallel path and take a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal while still participating along with others in this kaupapa, but they declined.

"This was despite giving themselves, along with kōhanga reo and wānanga, a huge opportunity to forge their own path," he said.

"As always, the government will respectfully consider any findings of the Waitangi Tribunal but this kaupapa is too important to wait for Te Rūnanga Nui to take their claim."

However in response, Te Rūnanga Nui o Ngā Kura Kaupapa chairman Rawiri Wright said that did not paint the full picture.

"What he [Minister Davis] isn't saying in his cabinet paper he expressly denied or excludes the ability to set up a separate Māori Education Authority, he has already corralled the thrust of the project before it gets off the ground."

Wright said they just wanted to determine themselves the future of Kura Kaupapa.

"The state believes they have all the remedies for Māori to fix Māori failings, what we are saying is Māori are who best know what is right for Māori, give us that opportunity, because you have failed us for 206 years and the success we are seeing in Māori education is not because of the Crown, but of our efforts over the past 37 years and we want to further that but establishing a Māori education authority," Wright said.

"Give us the chance to rename and redefine our own world, tino rangatiaranga is about duality, mutual development, it's not about separatism because it is promised by the Treaty of Waitangi between Māori and the Crown, what we are saying Crown uphold your part of it."

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