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Speaking Maori


Brian Greaves gave us the Viewpoint tonight about speaking Maori. He said ...

'For most of his life, my father worked for the Maori Affairs Department based in Gisborne as a shepherd, farm manager and field supervisor.

'My earliest memory was when he worked as a shepherd on a sheep station called Tiniroto, which was located on the inland road between Wairoa and Gisborne. I think I was about 3-4 years old at the time, so my memory is not that strong, although I do remember catching fresh-water crays in the stream that ran below our house.

'One thing I do remember was that my Dad moved around the district a lot, and our next move was to a sheep station at the back of Gisborne to a place called Waerenga o kuri. Dad’s oldest brother, Henry, was the farm manager here.

'This was my first school and I think we stayed here for about a year. I have vivid memories of walking to school across the hills and making sure to avoid the sink holes in the hillsides, between our house and the school. I'm not sure how big this school was but the pupils were predominately white.

'Our next move was to a sheep station called Pehiri which was located about 2-3 hrs drive from Gisborne. There was no local school here, so I did my schooling via correspondence. I was 5-6 years old at the time, and had my own horse called Minty. I still remember my mother riding the horse 6-7 miles to the main road to pick up my correspondence course lessons.

'My younger brother and I were the only children on the farm. My older sister stayed with my Grandmother and went to the local school at Patutahi with my cousin.

'In the early 1950s we moved up the East Coast to a place called Anaura Bay, just north of Tologa Bay. Some of you may have camped at Anaura Bay during your summer holidays. During my two years at Anaura Bay I attended the local Maori school, which had a roll of about 30 children, with a husband and wife teaching team.

'It’s worthwhile noting at this point to distinguish between Maori Schools and normal schools. Maori School students were less well-off than a normal school students, so the school provided all the school supplies, i.e. pens, paper, and books, and in return, the pupils had to clean the classrooms, empty the toilets, and maintain the grounds.

'I was the only European pupil, not that it mattered as everyone spoke English at school. If any of the Maori pupils spoke Maori at school, they were chastised by their parents who were keen for their children to be able to move on in the new world.

'From Anaura Bay, Dad was transferred to a sheep and cattle station just out of Wairoa, in Northern Hawkes Bay, and I went to the local Maori School called Whakaki which had a roll of about 130 children with only 4-5 European families.

'Once more, the same focus on speaking English was applied by the Maori parents, so I had no exposure to the Maori language other than participating in the Maori action songs and hakas.

'After Primary School, I attended Wairoa College, which again had a high Maori population.

'Despite the many school changes that I had, I did very well academically, moving into high paying jobs in the computer industry.

'But I am still intrigued by the current focus on teaching Maori language in schools.

'My view point is that I do not think it does any NZ child a lot of good learning a language that is not spoken at an International level, particularly when we are focusing on increasing our trade with countries that do not recognize or understand Maori, today and in the future.

'We should focus on teaching our children Mandarin, Cantonese, Hindustani, French, German, and Spanish, as well as English.

'In my international travels with IBM, I found that my high school French provided me with a significant advantage in communicating with other nationalities, and I would recommend any parent with college-age children to have them learn one of the mainstream international languages.

'In a nutshell, my viewpoint is that learning to speak Maori provides no advantage to NZ school children. Schooling should focus on truly international languages as well as English'.

Speaking Maori

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