Maori pre-school fights for life

The fight is on to save a Maori pre-school from closure after a damning report from the Education Review Office.
A review of Hine Te Aro Rangi at Te Ore Ore Marae found, among other things, an unsafe outdoor play area for children, no evaluation of teaching methods, and "parents and staff are unsure what they should do when the kaiako [supervisor] leaves the playroom".
The school, which has 26 pupils under 6, was already on a slippery slope after a report last year found it had financial and staff problems that forced the Education Review Office to put government appointees in charge.
The team that visited in June has found continued problems, including an outdoor area that has unfinished construction and "presents numerous potential hazards".
It also found "due to the poor organisation of staff and parents, ERO was unable to verify whether adult to child ratios are maintained at a suitable level".
Fears that the kohanga would be closed led to a community group taking charge three months ago after years of what was called "bad administration".
Former mayoral aspirant Toi Walker (senior) who helped found the kohanga about 15 years ago, then stepped aside, has returned as chairman and said "like Makoura College" it was on the mend.
He said the problems found in the 2009 ERO report hadn't been immediately fixed because there was no governing body to make changes.
But he called ERO "a pack of idiots" and said some of the concerns about the outdoor area were trivial things dreamt up by people who never left their office.
"What we deem is safe and what they deem is safe are two different things."
Mr Walker said handymen had now made repairs to outdoor handrails and the deck and he was volunteering his own time to fix the rest.


Asked how the kohanga got into the situation, Mr Walker believed "bad management and bad administration." "How does any organisation go down hill? It's administration I suppose that was not done properly."
Pat Bolstad, a member of Pura Pura, a support trust that helps Wairarapa kohanga, has helped build a year's curriculum for the preschool. She said there were problems when they arrived - "When I first walked into the kohanga to fix it up you could feel the coldness of the place" - but she was training the staff.
She said not long before she arrived the kohanga had more than $10,000 in debts that had accumulated.
Te Kohanga Reo National Trust was handling financial matters and the preschool was now out of debt and only paying off current bills.
She said Hine Te Aro Rangi needed to survive because the numbers of kohanga in the Wairarapa were dwindling - in 1992 there were seven and today there were only three.

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

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