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    Symposium to inspire excellence

    An education symposium to be hosted by iwi in Whakatū next month is the first step in what is hoped is a new chapter in celebrating and promoting educational excellence for Māori.

    ‘Kia wetewetea, ko Māui ahau!’ is the first symposium of its kind to be held in Te Tauihu (the top of the South Island). Organised by Te Kāhui Mātauranga o Te Tauihu o te Waka-a-Māui, a collective of the eight iwi of Te Tauihu formed in 2019 to work alongside the education sector, it is aimed at teachers, whānau and anyone with an interest in inspiring excellence for Māori students and influencing change.

    It’s also an opportunity for iwi to share their pūrākau, or tribal stories, with the launch of a new set of iwi resources to complement the new Aotearoa Histories in School curriculum.

    Whakatū-based Vanya George (Ngāti Kuia, Rangitāne o Wairau, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō, Te Ātiawa o te Waka-a-Māui, Ngāti Rārua) is a trained teacher and Education Facilitator for Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Kuia. She also sits on Te Kāhui Mātauranga on behalf of Ngāti Kuia.

    “The symposium is one of the outcomes of work in six priority areas that Kāhui Mātauranga agreed to early on. By hosting this, we hope to be able to not only give a platform to some of our own iwi education experts but also meet the needs of the sector – that’s something that comes up regularly and often.
    “But at the heart of it, this is for whānau as well. We want to give whānau an opportunity to gain a voice when it comes to education and provide some practical solutions when it comes to advocating for whānau in a school setting.”

    The name bestowed on the symposium ­– Kia wetewetea, ko Māui ahau! (Loosen me, for I am Māui!) - is a learning in itself. It invokes the obstacles Māui, the clever and gifted demigod – who was also a bit of a trickster – faced, and eventually overcame.

    “The name was born from a place where generalised education for our Māori students has been a bit hard, eh, because some of those qualities that our tamariki inherently are born with are considered maybe a hindrance or an obstacle,” says Janis de Thierry (Rangitāne, Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō, Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Ngāti Rārua, Te Ātiawa, Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao), from Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tuia Te Matangi in Richmond. de Thierry also sits on Te Kāhui Mātauranga o Te Tauihu is co-chair of Te Rūnanga a Rangitāne o Wairau.

    “Māui was famous for being a curious person, he was born out of a struggle and through all his ups and downs, he managed to succeed. At kōhanga, often some of the tamariki were quite full on and the nannies used to refer to them as Māui; they got into things they shouldn’t, climbing up everywhere, and those aspects of pushing the boundaries were traits of Māui, who was of course one of our tūpuna. And so, we have ‘Kia wetewetea’, or loosen me, unbind me, stop restricting me, ‘Ko Māui ahau’, I’m Māui. It puts that focus back on to our own superheroes. The qualities of Māui are those we hope our tamariki emulate – well the superhero qualities anyway,” she says with a grin.

    de Thierry says the symposium is open to anyone who is interested.

    “This is about opening eyes, looking at education with a Māori lens and not as an add on, not just for non-Māori but for all. Let’s bring in our mātanga (experts) who can speak about these subjects, about what they have learned, about racism is schools, and about how we can improve all those kinds of things.”

    ‘Kia wetewetea, ko Māui ahau!’, on at the Trafalgar Centre in Whakatū on October 21, 2022, 8am to 3.30pm, is supported by Te Hurihanganui and tickets are free. Anyone is welcome to attend.

    Michelle Lavender

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    Symposium to inspire excellence