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Bilingual basis . . . Teachers and tamariki (children) from He Manu Hou, Timaru's bilingual preschool, are celebrating one year since the centre opened. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

by Greta Yeoman

It has been a successful first year for Timaru’s bilingual preschool, He Manu Hou manager Anna Buckingham says.

The preschool, which is based at Te Aitarakihi Multicultural Centre in Bridge Rd, opened in July 2018.

Whaea Anna attributed much of the preschool’s success to the support from the community, particularly the Te Aitarakihi Trust (which manages the centre where the preschool is located), as well as kaumātua (elders) from Te Rūnanga o Waihao and Te Rūnanga o Arowhenua.

“We’ve had really good support.”

Waihao marae is in Waimate, while Arowhenua marae, just south of Temuka, has bilingual primary school Arowhenua Māori School situated beside it.

He Manu Hou, which became a fully licenced preschool earlier this year, is based at the back of Te Aitarakihi Multicultural Centre, which hosts many community groups in the main centre space throughout the week.

The idea of starting a preschool on the site was first discussed in 2013, but took five years to come to fruition.

Whaea Anna said the preschool had about 4-5 teachers on the ground for a variable number of tamariki (children), who were able to wander inside and outdoors throughout the day.

“We want them to connect with this place.”

“This is their Timaru area.”

They also visit nearby Washdyke Lagoon, where the tamariki had also each planted a tree, that they knew was theirs.

The teachers all refer to each other as whaea/matua (aunty/uncle) which was a way of demonstrating respect to the tamariki, Whaea Anna said.

While the preschool was not just for Māori tamariki, it was important for the preschool to have that connection with South Canterbury’s Māori community, she said.

The preschool teachers and tamariki switch between te reo Māori and English, and many whānau (family) who may not be fluent reo speakers were able to learn alongside their tamariki.