Prior to getting Te Reo Tuatahi off the ground five years ago, I was discussing with some Principals how best to deliver te reo Māori programmes into our mainstream schools.  The common theme of their kōrero was that for the previous ten years there had always been two major challenges – one was a lack of te reo Māori resources to provide in the classrooms; the second challenge (and by far the most significant) was the shortage of trained (registered) teachers who were competent or fluent speakers in te reo Māori.

These are sentiments shared by many Principals.   In this video,  Tūmuaki of Kawerau Pūtauaki school, Ripeka Lessels expresses her concerns:

So let’s do a quick audit of the past fifteen years in total and fast forward to the situation we have now!  With the first challenge we can see a vast improvement. We are spoilt for choice with the te reo Māori resources for use in our classrooms now.  There are books, CDs, DVDs, various apps, on-line YouTube clips and so on.

It would seem though that with Challenge two, unfortunately there is no improvement!  Kore!  So here we are repeating the same rhetoric fifteen years on, of not having enough registered teachers who are competent or fluent speakers in the reo Māori.  So what has been happening and why….and more to the point how many more years is this going to continue?

Going into schools I get to meet a few first year teachers and I always like to ask them ‘What do your cover in terms of te reo Māori in your degree’?  ‘Very little…’ is normally the reply!  In fact, they say that they usually get taught about the powhiri process and what happens.  But overall hardly any focus on correct pronunciation of vowel sounds, words and phrases (which in fact is what most of them really need and are the first to admit it).  Equipped to teach te reo Māori confidently?  Definitely not!  Many feel very uncomfortable at the thought of having to do so.  So when one of our kaiāwhina reo (language tutor) walks into their classroom, they are for the most part, truly welcomed and appreciated.

Our kaiāwhina reo are not just there to teach our tamariki te reo Māori, but to also provide Professional Development for the classroom teacher.  Whether they are in their first year or their fifteenth year as a teacher is irrelevant?  These teachers remain in the class and are encouraged to engage and participate in the lesson.

Te Reo Tuatahi have had a number of kaiāwhina reo who have come out of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori.  While still deciding what they want to do, they use us as a stepping stone to get to bigger and brighter things.  We have had two of our kaiāwhina reo go on to work in Māori media such was the strength of their reo.  Another is now in his second year of a teaching degree (Huarahi Māori) at the Epsom campus in Auckland.  With more resourcing and opportunity there could be many other success stories.

This is the Labour Governments opportunity to come up with new and innovative policies to address this long standing issue and use award winning programmes like Te Reo Tuatahi as a pathway forward.  Why not look at a policy that would allow a teaching degree which could consist of study for three days and two days practicum in the classroom as a Kaiāwhina reo?  This way our young Māori speakers are taking on a teaching degree, using their passion to share and teach te reo Māori and earn some putea while they are doing it.

What are your thoughts?  Leave us a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.


  1. Huia says:

    I agree, there’s a shortage of competent te reo Māori speaking teachers. I’ve heard wonderful things about Te Reo Tuatahi and I’m surprised that an award winning programme like this one hasn’t caught the attention of Ministry of Education. Hopefully, this article gets their attention. Wishing you all the best.

    1. Gaylene Nepia says:

      Thanks Huia, we appreciate you taking the time to stop by and comment 🙂

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