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Here to learn . . . Teachers from primary, secondary and preschools from around South Canterbury have been gathering at Te Aitarakihi Multicultural Centre on Wednesday evenings for Maori language and culture lessons. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

by Greta Yeoman

Last week may have been Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week), but a group of South Canterbury teachers has been taking te reo lessons for several months.

More than 40 teachers and other staff from kura (schools) around South Canterbury have been gathering at Te Aitarakihi Multicultural Centre for weekly Māori language and culture lessons.

He Manu Hou Trust chairman Karl Te Raki said the 13-week programme, Te Ahu o te Reo Māori (Fostering Education in te Reo Māori), had been developed by the Ministry of Education and iwi representatives for different areas of the country.

This meant the South Canterbury sessions focused on Ngāi Tahu history, culture and dialect – the latter of which typically replaces “ng” with a “k”, hence the occasional spelling differences between Aoraki and Aorangi.

“[It is about] empowering those teachers to be confident and building their confidence.”

Mr Te Raki said the group had visited both Arowhenua and Waihao marae to learn about the history and stories from both places, as well as being based at Te Aitarakihi.

“[It is about] empowering those teachers to be confident and building their confidence.”

He said it was about developing their knowledge of te reo Māori, as well as local knowledge at “the grass roots”, including being accustomed to being on a marae so they would feel comfortable bringing school groups along.

Schools represented in the 40-strong group included Mackenzie College, Waimate High School, Oceanview Heights, He Manu Hou, Roncalli College, Highfield, Grantlea Downs, Opihi College, Cannington School and Woodbury School.

Mr Te Raki, who is also a kaiako (teacher) at Craighead Diocesan School, said the school had been preparing for Flava kapa haka festival on Friday.

The sessions had also prompted many of the teachers involved to express an interest in attending Flava, he said.

He Manu Hou manager Anna Buckingham said the bilingual preschool had had several staff members involved with the lessons.

She said organisers were “optimistic” the initiative would be held again next year.

Tutor Kalinia Te Rahui-Harris said the sessions were “a long time coming”, but had been well received.

Fellow tutor Marie Donaldson, who teaches Māori at Waimate High School, said it was about encouraging teachers to use te reo at school, which would then encourage their pupils.

“Every little bit counts.”