Report – By Mikaela Collins
A Manurewa group is creating resources in Cook Island Māori for Cook Island preschools.
Toku Reo Tupuna Trust is a group aiming to improve the quality of education for Cook Islands people in New Zealand.
Project co-ordinator for the trust Maurice Tuareka started the group, part of the early childhood centre Te Tuareka O Manurewa Punanga Reo, after he saw a need for resources in Cook Island Māori.
“About 10 years ago we came into the early childhood education and we suddenly realised that we didn’t have any resources. Nobody was writing, there was nothing being written by government,” he said
The group put together books, cds, posters and dvds in Cook Island Māori from their small offices above the preschool.
Tuareka said the need for these resources were important for the success of Cook Islands people.
“We’d like to see education become more common in our community. We have the lowest university attendees. It takes longer for them to complete their degrees so we want to place the literacy format in the early stages.”
Tuareka said the organisation received funding from the government through equity funding, however it was still not enough.
“There’s not much that can go to creating the resources because the other money needs to go towards feeding the children downstairs with food, purchasing a van for transport and employing a driver. There are other areas we have to allocate that funding.
“We’re lucky to have the three key people we have here and they’re not university qualified, but they love the culture. That’s what is important.”
The Ministry of Education said equity funding “provides additional targeted funding to some early childhood education services. Equity funding is an add-on to the early-childhood bulk funding subsidy”.
“This is the only way our children can engage in that reo. They say language can be retained through communication. That is true, but our community is not one filled with vibrant reo,” said Tuareka.
Twenty-six-year-old mother Christina Tuara said she sent her son to Te Tuareka O Manurewa Punanga Reo and considered these resources were vital.
“In general, resources are very important to children because they are at the age where they’re picking up habits and their minds are stimulating new information. For a Cook Islands ECE (early childhood education) centre it is more so important to have these resources translated into the language because it gives the Cook Island Māori children a sense of belonging and at the same time preserves the language,” said Tuara.
Tuareka said he hoped through the resources the group created he would improve Cook Islands students’ performance in schools.
“It’s our job to get out kids into primary and secondary with good literacy skills and ensure they pass NCEA and gain university entrance so they can go to university with confidence and graduate within the allocated time frame.”
Mikaela Collins is a third-year Bachelor of Communication Studies student journalist at AUT University.