Topic: Kōhanga Reo

Ministers threaten to pull $2.5 mill contract from National Kōhanga Reo Trust

By Maiki Sherman

The master contract between the National Kōhanga Reo Trust and the Ministry of Education regarding operational funding won't be renewed.

That decision comes after a letter was sent to the board by Education Ministers, Hekia Parata and Dr Pita Sharples.

Indeed, the challenge has been laid at the feet of the national trust to get its house in order and focus on the needs of kōhanga families around the country.

According to Te Teko Kōhanga Reo, the concerns of Mataatua/Tauranga Moana have so far been ignored by the National Trust, but the letter by the Ministers is the final blow.   

On June 30, the master agreement between the Ministry of Education and the National Trust will be up.

The Ministry says it doesn't intend on renewing it. It's a contract worth about $2.5 million-a-year for the operation of the National Trust. According to the Ministry, the National Trust is not achieving the support for kōhanga reo that is required.   

Loraine Hail of Te Kōhanga reo o Te Teko says,”The board can't ignore this now due to the ministers' request, so they must thoroughly investigate these allegations.”

The current concerns will have more weight behind them through the letter, in particular through the revised understanding for a new contract.

The advice by both Ministers is for life membership on the board to be abolished, for the governance to be a democratic representation of kōhanga whānau through received nominations, and that the trust renew its mandate with whānau in a transparent way.       

Lorraine Hail agrees, “Whānau must have a voice, no matter who are selected as the regional representative on the board. It's not much, but they should be able to voice their opinion to the board.'”

Another recommendation is that Te Pātaka Ōhanga is no longer tenable and its services to kōhanga need to be reconsidered by the Trust. In terms of the Treaty of Waitangi claim, the letter says it will continue once the current issues are resolved. It's also anticipated that a seat on the Kōhanga Reo National Trust board may be allocated to the Crown, a finding in the claim report by Sir Michael Cullen.  

Next week, King Tūheitia's national meeting for kōhanga reo will be held at Tūrangawaewae, with the hope of addressing these concerns. However, according to the agenda outlining the days' plan it's not clear at all when specific discussions will be held regarding the issues which sparked this problem.

Lorraine Hail says, “Workshops are being held, but I don't see any space where we can present our stories, so I'm a bit wary.”

In terms of funding for kōhanga reo across the country, the Ministry says that will not be affected and will continue to flow through.

Although it was the adults at Te Kōhanga Reo o Te Teko, part of the Mataatua/Tauranga Moana collective who first raised concerns, these children are none the wiser to that stress and it's business as usual.

Lorraine says, “When you visit kōhanga, the kōhanga's core focus is still evident, and the politics are left outside. The kids don't need to know what's going on.”

According to the letter, by the 30th of this month both Ministers expect a response from the National Trust. Te Kāea requested an interview with the board today but to no avail.