The Māori immersion school in Oruawharo is planning a move to Kaiwaka, reflecting a growing interest in te reo Māori and tikanga Māori education.
Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngaringaomatariki caters for students in Years 1 to 8 and is the only full immersion school between Whangarei and Auckland. There are currently 48 students on the roll.
Principal Reno Skipper started at the school 15 years ago, when there were just 17 students. He says the move to Kaiwaka will raise the profile of the school, as well as making it more accessible to a wider catchment.
While the school’s current location next to the Oruawharo Marae, on the shores of the Kaipara Harbour, is idyllic in many ways, being at the end of an unsealed, potholed road has its disadvantages.
On the day that Mahurangi Matters visited the school, a teacher travelling from Wellsford was involved in a collision on the road which, fortunately, did not result in any serious injury.
“The road puts a lot of people off,” Skipper says. “The new school will provide us with an opportunity to grow. People will be able to see us and hear us.”
The new school will be built on 4.6ha in Tawa Road in Kaiwaka and a Notice of Requirement for designation has been lodged with Kaipara District Council. The Ministry of Education says the project is in the early planning stages and building is likely to start in 2025.
The new school will cater for years 0-13 and puna reo [early childhood education].
Northern deputy secretary Isabel Evans says the ministry will work with the kura [school] through the planning phase to determine the initial roll and year levels.
Principal Skipper says that currently, families with children at Oruawharo face tough decisions when their eldest child finishes Year 8.
The only full immersion options for college students are in Auckland. They can either uplift their families and move, bus their children to Auckland or forego the full immersion system and enrol at Otamatea High School or Rodney College, where the whanau connections are not the same.
Casey Wikiriwhi has two children attending Hoani Waititi in Glen Eden and two at Oruawharo. Her husband, who is a teacher, stays with the children in Auckland during the week.
“We get together on weekends, but it is not ideal,” she says. “For most of the parents at Oruawharo, te reo is not their first language so we feel a strong commitment to providing this education for our children.”
She hopes the new Kaiwaka school will open soon so both her two younger children will be able to finish their schooling locally.
“That would be amazing.”
Skipper says alongside normal school subjects, Oruawharo focuses on developing an educational appreciation for the hapū and iwi roles and responsibilities. This is reflected in the total commitment of parents to ensure their children participate in an education programme that promotes and teaches te reo Māori and tikanga Māori.
Not all students are te reo speakers when they enrol and not all students are Māori.
“Only four per cent of the population of Kaipara are te reo speakers so this school is about the survival of the language,” Skipper says. “With language comes a sense of belonging and a understanding of your responsibilities to look after your language, your culture and your environment. When you know who you are then you can contribute positively to your community and your country.”