Parents attacked for speaking out against teaching Maori

By Sophie Rishworth of the Gisborne Herald -
Phill and Haylee Foster appeared on Campbell Live Monday  speaking against their child Latika, 2, being taught Maori in her childcare centre, and have been stung by a backlash. Photo / Dave Thomas
Phill and Haylee Foster appeared on Campbell Live Monday speaking against their child Latika, 2, being taught Maori in her childcare centre, and have been stung by a backlash. Photo / Dave Thomas

A couple who protested at their 2-year-old learning te reo in kindergarten say they feel they were "hung out to dry" by a national television programme.

Phill and Haylee Foster, of Gisborne, appeared with their daughter Latika on Campbell Live on Monday after approaching the show last Friday.

They claim producers deliberately delayed their story until Monday to coincide with the start of Maori Language Week.

The Fosters say they had no idea it was Maori Language Week until they watched TV that night and said their story was made to look "one-sided".

In the programme, the couple said they were upset to learn that children at the Victoria Childcare Centre were spoken to in Maori and that they sang Maori songs.

Mrs Foster said: "She doesn't need to know the colours, she doesn't need to know the toilet, or that food is kai.

"It is not spoken to her at home, why should it be spoken to her at her kindy?

"We are not of Maori culture, our daughter is not of Maori culture. So we don't understand why our child should have to learn it when it is not in her everyday lifestyle."

Mr Foster said: "I've got Maori friends, they don't speak to her in Maori ... We're not racist becuase like I say I've got Maori friends."

They also stated they had considered pulling Latika out of the centre and educating her privately.

The couple say they have been abused since they were on television.

Since broadcast, Mr Foster has been called "Hitler" and his wife, pregnant with their second child, feared leaving the house. Two family members have stopped talking to them and they have been criticised on Facebook and other social media.

"On Facebook they have even said we're irresponsible parents for giving our child a ghetto name. Latika means lovely little one in Indian. We should have the choice about when our daughter learns another language," he said.

But Mr Foster claimed he had support from Maori.

"Some Maori people have told us they are 100 per cent behind us and it should be the parents' choice."

"We're not saying we don't like Maoris and we don't like their language... what we're saying is that at the age of two our daughter needs to learn English first. Once we've taught her English and got no slang in there, then at five when she sits down at school they can teach her Maori then," said Mr Foster.

TV3 owner MediaWorks said that in no way was there any attempt to "hang the Fosters out to dry" by Campbell Live.

"That is simply not how our journalists operate. Yes, the comments made by the Fosters are controversial, but they approached Campbell Live last Friday afternoon with a desire to express strongly- held views, and were treated with fairness and balance by all involved.

"The feedback we received after the programme was split between people supportive of the Fosters' point of view and those who were not.

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