Māori does not need Chris Hipkins to tell us what is best for our mokopuna



Shane Te Pou looks at the plans of the Ministry of Education to close the current charter school model and what it means for Māori education.

Unleashing the Rogernomics revolution on New Zealand without warning and without paying attention to the short-term consequences was Labor's greatest shame of the 20th century.

More recently, Labor ashamed with the confiscation of the foreshore and the seabed and the attack on the election fraud on freedom of expression.

But there were reasons for this shame, even if you do not agree with them. David Lange knew something had to be done to stop running New Zealand like a Polish shipyard. Helen Clark feared that the procedures for waterfront and seabed would alarm Pākehā and she wanted to prevent the Exclusive Brothers from spending millions to influence elections.

Jacinda Ardern and Chris Hipkins do not have such an excuse for her attack on charter schools. Their movement is pure ideology and nothing more. It shames the new government.

Māori was most enthusiastic about the new charter school model and with good reason. There is no doubt that the school system has failed many of our people (while also doing fantastic work for others).

Compared to everyone else, Māori are underrepresented in pre-school education, go to school for elementary school, leave school prematurely, go no further to tertiary education, fail to obtain qualifications, become pregnant and unemployed, commit crimes and are sent to prison.

The reasons are complex, a legacy of colonization and racism. But Māori did not sit back and weep. Instead, one of the greatest sources of pride in the Māori communities over the past 40 years is how we took responsibility for our tamariki and mokopuna from the colonial power, took the initiative, and provided the flax people with the kind of education given that we know that they allow them to succeed in modern Aotearoa and worldwide.

First with Te Kohanga Reo, then Kura Kaupapa Māori and wānanga, Māori have taken it upon themselves to prepare our children for modern times and to ensure the survival of our reo and tikanga.

When the history of the two thousand years of the Māori people is told, such as Jean Puketapu, Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, Katerina Mataira, Pita Sharples, Graham Smith, Linda Smith, Cathy Dewes, Tuki Nepe, Rahera Shortland, Pem Bird, Toni Waho, Toby Curtis, Rongo Wetere, Iwi Kohuru Mangu and Rewi Panapa deserve to be seen as one of the greatest of our people.

Added to that list would be Māori charter school pioneers like Roana Bennett and Raewyn Tipene.

As a former member of the Labor Party and activist, I would like to say that it was my party that helped these leaders succeed as the treaty partner, but unfortunately I can not.

It was the Muldoon government that came for the first time behind Kohanga Reo, the Bolger government that first financed Kura Kaupapa Māori and Wananga and launched Te Whāriki and Māori-specific curricula, and the key government that was the first to support charter schools.

Whether one of these prime ministers supported these initiatives because they saw themselves as the treaty partner or just because they wanted to try something new to tackle the failure of Māori, makes little difference.

They supported Māori education when it counted.

Unfortunately, Labor can not refer to something like the same record.

Now, in a (failed) attempt to please the unions, Chris Hipkins has decided to close the charter school model that was about to unleash the next wave of Māori education renewal without having to go back and ask the treaty partner for financial support .

In response to criticism, Hipkins says he does not believe that Māori students "must be forced to leave the public education system and go into a form of private school to get the education they deserve" and no one else.

But Māori honestly does not need Hipkins to tell us what's best for our mokopuna. For 178 years we have been waiting for the treaty partner to meet the needs of our children. Despite the best intentions of some of the giants of the Pākehā political world, including King Dick Seddon, Peter Fraser, David Lange, Lockwood Smith, Trevor Mallard and Steve Maharey, we are still waiting. We are not confident that Hipkins, a former student union president and party leader of the Labor Party, will do better than she does.

Get out of the way of Mr. Hipkins. Give Māori the freedom to teach our children in our own language, in our own culture and with our own pedagogy, and we will close the gaps between Māori and Pākehā students and Aotearoa, the artists, business leaders, scientists, lawyers, musicians, writers, legislators and mothers and fathers of the future.


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