Hundreds sign on for forum 'looking at education with a Māori lens'

4:36 pm on 16 October 2022
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There are exciting opportunities in the education sector as new policies are being introduced, one guest speaker says. Photo: RNZ/Vinay Ranchhod

An education symposium hosted by iwi in Whakatū Nelson next week aims to address racism in schools and promote excellence for Māori students.

The event, called Kia wetewetea, ko Māui ahau! which translates to, Loosen me, for I am Māui! is being held at the Trafalgar Centre in Nelson next Friday.

It's aimed at teachers, whānau and anyone with an interest in inspiring excellence for Māori students and influencing change in the education sector.

Whakatū-based teacher and education facilitator Vanya George (Ngāti Kuia, Rangitāne o Wairau, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō, Te Ātiawa o te Waka-a-Māui, Ngāti Rārua) said the event will be a platform for iwi education experts and will help meet the needs of the education sector.

It's also an opportunity for iwi to share their pūrākau, tribal stories, with the launch of a new set of resources for the new Aotearoa Histories in School curriculum.

"But at the heart of it, this is for whānau as well. We want to give whānau an opportunity to gain a voice when it comes to education and provide some practical solutions when it comes to advocating for whānau in a school setting."

So far, more than 800 people have signed up for the inaugural event and some schools in Te Tauihu are having teacher-only days so their kaimahi can attend.

Dr Liana MacDonald (Ngāti Kuia, Rangitāne o Wairau, Ngāti Koata) is one of the keynote speakers at the event.

A former teacher and lecturer in the Faculty of Education at Victoria University of Wellington, her work examines how racism, whiteness, and settler colonialism manifest in national institutions and takes a critical look at how institutional racism affects the education system in Aotearoa.

"Our school system is set up in a way that it doesn't really acknowledge the effects of historical colonial violence, all the horrible ways that our colonial history has dislocated Māori from land and culture."

She said that has implications for how we live in society and how our education system operates.

"As a result of talking about our history and what has happened within our local communities, we can move forward and think about how we can create an education system that's more equitable, or how we can operate as a multi-cultural society and a bi-cultural society."

She said there were exciting opportunities in the education sector as new policies were released, like the Aotearoa New Zealand's histories curriculum and Te Hurihanganui initiative, which acknowledged addressing racism and inequity was everybody's responsibility.

"It's really important that people get on board so that we can start to think differently and creatively about an education system that caters for all, not just for one group as it has done for so long."

Other speakers at the symposium include education consultant, author and researcher Dr Melanie Riwai-Couch and senior lecturer in Māori History at Massey University, Dr Peter Meihana.

Janis de Thierry (who affiliates with the eight iwi of Te Tauihu and Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao) from Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tuia Te Matangi in Richmond said the symposium was open to anyone interested in Māori education.

"This is about opening eyes, looking at education with a Māori lens and not as an add on, not just for non-Māori but for all. Let's bring in our mātanga (experts) who can speak about these subjects, about what they have learned, about racism in schools, and about how we can improve all those kinds of things."

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