Report – By Mikaela Collins
A Tokelau language preschool in New Zealand that started out as a playgroup in a Mangere garage in Auckland plans to expand.
Mataliki Tokelau Akoga Kamata has been granted permission by Auckland Council to extend the one existing building.
The preschool was started by Foai Foai and Feagai Foai in 1987 and has been operating at its Aorere Park location since 1998. The couple’s daughter Sulata Foai-Amiatu says the idea was to bring together the Tokelauan community.
“My parents started this preschool. Well, it was more of a playgroup, more than 20 years ago and it was run out of their garage. The intention back then was to try to start the engagement of our Tokelauan people and enrolling their children in preschool.”
“Mataliki” as it is known, incorporates values of Tokelauan language and culture and Christian values with Te Whāriki – the Ministry of Education’s early childhood curriculum policy statement.
The extension will make room to add 50 more students to its 50 student roll.
The increased size of the preschool will occupy some of the land on council-owned Aorere Park, therefore permission from the Auckland Council was needed.
Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board chair Fa’anānā Efeso Collins says the decision to support the application reflected the board’s position on early childhood centres.
“We want more of our children to go in to early childhood education. We know that for Pacific families the uptake of early childhood education isn’t on par with other mainstream families. So we want to see that happen.”
Foai-Amiatu says having a preschool with a Tokelauan focus is an important part of identity for both children and their parents.
“I think it’s great that where you would expect that the parents are teaching the kids, the kids are actually teaching the parents, so that goes a long way in terms of bringing some our New Zealand born adults back to their culture.”
The centre supervisor at Mataliki preschool, Ruth Kaio, says teaching there is rewarding.
“I love the way they (the children) explore, experience and learn new skills. Seeing them grow as individuals and develop their own characteristics is special. And it’s such a privilege to share those triumphs and milestones in their lives.”
Foai-Amiatu says the preschool aims to start the expansion in February next year.
Mikaela Collins is a third-year Bachelor of Communication Studies student journalist at AUT University.