New Zealand's oldest Maori girls' boarding school, St Joseph's Maori Girls' College in Napier, is to celebrate 150 years of advocacy and support for the Maori language.
St Joseph's Maori Girls' College was established in 1867 and the school has chosen Maori Language Week to launch their online pre-registration for those interested in attending the 150th jubilee celebrations on the weekend of October 6-8, 2017.
The college was established by the Sisters of Our Lady of the Mission, who came to New Zealand from France. Although English was the required language of instruction, the French-speaking sisters are said to have empathised with their Maori students' difficulty with adhering to the "English only" rule as they similarly found it a challenge not being permitted to speak their first language.
This spirit of advocacy and support for the girls and their culture enabled generations of young Maori women to thrive academically and take pride in their heritage.
The college boasts an impressive line-up of alumni and Maori language champions.
They include the first president of the Maori Women's Welfare League, Dame Whina Cooper, foundation board member of the Maori Language Commission Dame Kterina Te Heikk Mataira as well as current Maori Language Commission board member Professor Rawina Higgins who has played a significant role in the establishment of the new Maori language body, Te Mtwai.
Today, Maori language is compulsory at the school and girls from St Joseph's Maori Girls' College gained first place in three out of four sections of the Ng Manu Krero Regional Speech Competitions held in Taradale last week.
Jubilee Committee chairwoman and former pupil Julie Tangaere says Maori language and culture has always been recognised as an integral part of the school.
"We are proud of the contribution our girls have made to the Maori language and culture.
"We are looking forward to honouring our school and celebrating this special milestone together in 2017."
St Joseph's Maori Girls' College will celebrate Maori Language Week on Saturday with a group kapa haka festival at the Napier Municipal Theatre.
The jubilee pre-registration form is available on the school website until the end of the school year.
* Ahakoa he iti he pounamu.
* Although it is small it is a treasure.