Te reo Māori in classrooms programme begins with 150 teachers

More than 150 teachers are beginning their reo haerenga as part of a $12 million programme to increase the use of te reo Māori in the classroom.

Te Ahu o Te Reo Māori is a pilot programme aimed at increasing teachers' understanding of te reo, and already nearly 700 teachers have signed up.

The government wants to integrate te reo Māori into all classrooms by 2025.

The programme is already under way in Taranaki and Waikato, and now 158 teachers from Kāpiti, Horowhenua and Te Waipounamu are doing their part to revitalise the language.

The programme is being run by the Kāuru Education group, led by kaiwhakahaere Te Whatanui Winiata, whose whānau have been key to revitalising te reo Māori in the Ōtaki rohe.

Mr Winiata said the aim of Kāuru was to produce speakers of te reo fluent enough the kōrero could flow like water.

"There is a kōrero that is said - 'Ko te wahapū te tino taumata o te pū kore' - and so, the wahapū or the river mouth is what we aspire to be as an orator, or as a person who can command the reo."

There are five parts to the programme - prounciation, whakamahi (use of the language), whakarārangi, whakarauemi (bringing together resources), and revitalisation.

Mr Winiata said that would all come together for the final kura reo: four days of full-immersion te reo Māori.

Kāpiti Primary School teacher Kris Bolton, of Te Atiawa, said she simply wanted to kōrero Māori with her teenage daughter, who is conversational in the reo.

Ms Bolton is also lead teacher for Māori at Kāpiti Primary School - of which about a third of the students are Māori - and she said whānau wanted more reo for their tamariki.

"Lots of their whānau haven't got it, because lots of our whānau come from generations - same as mine - where they have not learnt te reo Māori and lots of them want it back, they want it for their children, so it's really important to our school and our school community."

Early childhood teacher Bethany O'Hagan decided that if she did not step up, no one else would.

She said her goal was to inspire not only students, but other teachers to use te reo.

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Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

"I would be using it regularly enough within my daily practice with tamariki and with my other kaiako on the floor that it would make them passionate about wanting to then share that or the children to be sharing that with their whānau."

The government is yet to decide whether the programme will continue next year but Kelvin Davis hopes it will keep running long-term.

"I think what we're doing is making it easier to grasp hold of - we're not doing it in a threatening way, we're doing it in a welcoming, easy way and I think that is more important - if you try and force something down its throat then that could have negative consequences.

"I'd love to see all New Zealanders learn te reo but we've got to do it in a way that brings people along onboard, we've got to normalise it, we've got to be able to hear it not just in our schools but in the streets and in homes, in businesses, and that's when we know we're really moving forward as a nation in terms of taking hold of te reo Māori."

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