Tutara Wananga Kohanga Reo

by barbznz

The original idea for the kohanga came from the School Principal , Mr Edwards who was also Jenni’s teacher. He was concerned about the number of new entrants particularly Maori new entrants who didn’t have pre-school experience before they started school.

He talked to a whole lot of people and one of those people. Manuhopukia Waihape,, an ex-school teacher and they obviously got the necessary permission to open the door.

Tepora Douglas was the kuia. Her husband gifted the name  from a whare wānanga that was established specifically for tōhunga at nearby Waimapu by an ancestor Tamatea Arikinui.

It was the first kohanga on a school in the Tauranga area. The rest were on local marae. It was set up under the umbrella of the Te Awanui, the local branch of the Maori Women’s Welfare League.

On that first day Simon and I had no idea what to expect. I really had had nothing to do with Maori culture. Of course over the years, I had many Maori friends and there was Ben of course but we never discussed cultural issues. I have never been to marae and the only Maori words I knew were basic greetings.

Matangi was there. I had met her through school when I was a parent help and I knew some of the other mothers as well. I think there was about 15 children on that first day, From baby to almost 5 year olds. We had basic class room equipment  and Matangi brought her guitar.

My pronunciation was terrible. They laughed as I tried to get my tongue around some of the words. It took a long time but eventually I could say things and they wouldn’t fall over laughing. Simon loved the company, he and the other children quickly bonded into a big whanau.

It was such a warm welcoming place. They were happy to have little little blonde pakeha and his mother as one of them.

And Simon and I had  the most amazing experiences. I learnt so much in my time there, I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

© Barbara Hart 2014

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