Tribunal: Kohanga reo in crisis

By Yvonne Tahana, Kate Shuttleworth

Kohanga reo children are facing a crisis, according to a Waitangi Tribunal report. Photo / APN
Kohanga reo children are facing a crisis, according to a Waitangi Tribunal report. Photo / APN

The Kohanga Reo National Trust is calling for a moratorium on any new policy decisions by the Ministry of Education that affects it after a Waitangi Tribunal report found government policy had put it in crisis.

Matua Rautia, the report on the Kohanga Reo National Trust claim, alleged wide-ranging breaches of the Treaty.

The trust said the Crown had effectively assimilated the kohanga reo movement into its early childhood education regime.

It also found the Crown's early childhood education system had failed to adequately sustain the specific needs of kohanga reo as an environment for language transmission and whanau development.

These failures constituted breaches of the Treaty principles of partnership and equity.

The report found the Crown's early childhood education system had failed to adequately sustain the specific needs of kohanga reo as an environment for language transmission and whanau development.

These failures constituted breaches of the Treaty principles of partnership and equity.

It recommended the Crown urgently consider a "more appropriate regulatory and licensing framework'' specific to kohanga, without explaining what that might look like.

The Kohanga National Trust board said the report vindicated the claims of Kohanga Reo and its decision to take an urgent claim to the tribunal.

It acknowledged that te reo Maori was in a perilous state, and that kohanga reo was inexplicably linked to the preservation of te reo as a living language.

"After decades of mainstreaming by the Crown, this report finally proves what we knew all along; kohanga reo is driven by whanau, supported by iwi, hapu and a number of significant Maori organisations. Kohanga reo is inexplicably linked to the revitalisation of te reo Maori'' said board trustee Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi.

Board co-chair Tina Olsen-Ratana said the tribunal had found the Government's policy did not adequately provide for the unique role and contribution of kohanga.

The board would discuss the report with kohanga whanau around the country and had requested a meeting with Prime Minister John Key, Education Minister Hekia Parata and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples to discuss the report's recommendations.

In the meantime, it called for a moratorium on any new policy decisions by the Education Ministry that would affect kohanga reo.

Public and employment law expert Mai Chen called the report unique.

"Never before have I seen the tribunal recommend that an independent adviser be based in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and report to the Prime Minister. This shows how seriously the tribunal feels about the revitalisation of te reo and kohanga's role in that,'' she said.

Ms Parata said the report findings would be assessed and considered alongside current work on funding and participation in the early years of learning and the development of Tau Mai Te Reo [the Education Ministry's Maori Language in Education plan].

"The Government continues to acknowledge the important role kohanga reo play in education. Over a billion dollars has been directed toward funding kohanga reo over the past 20 years. There is work under way in promoting greater participation in the early years of learning, and the Government is considering how best to support te reo Maori,'' she said.

The recommendations of Matua Rautia:

- An independent adviser be appointed to oversee implementation of report recommendations.

- A policy framework for kohanga reo, a supportive funding regime and a more appropriate regulatory and licensing framework.

- Crown should apologise for the failure of its early childhood education policies and should pay the trust's legal costs.

- NZ Herald

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