Topic: Education

Migrant students share their love for Māori culture

updated By Piripi Taylor
  • Auckland

Non-Māori learning te reo Māori are delving deeper into wider aspects of Māori culture. Māori tertiary institutions are serving them well.

It's an encouraging sign when you hear about reo Māori beginner classes filling up quicker than you can say "tēnā koutou" three times.

What's even more encouraging is that many of those students are Pākehā New Zealanders, according to Ruki Tobin of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

"The majority are elderly, which astounds me because if we look back 20-30 years to the beginning of Kōhanga Reo, total immersion primary and secondary schools, there were real battles from Pākeha toward Māori during that time.  Over the years, they've come around in their thinking about the worlds we live in," says Tobin.

Over 600 rsvps were received for the Whānau Orientation Day at Auckland's Māngere Campus of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.  It's the first time students from all five campuses under it's umbrella have been brought together for one pōhiri.  Many are from our migrant communities, keen to embrace the culture and language wholeheartedly.

Abann Yor of Sudan says, "I find that the worldview of Māori are tied to me because I still remember my ancestors and the value of knowledge they passed through me.  I need to make sure I pass it through my own children."

Migrant students who are learning te reo Māori are also developing a deeper desire to learn a lot more about the culture.

Japanese student Akiko Maruno has studied te reo Māori for seven years and is now studying Māori Medicine, Level 4.

Sunita Maharaj from India enjoys the richness of the culture.  "The wairua of Māori culture is so pure, is so beautiful and the essence of te reo and Māori culture brings me back and so I have signed up to study more about te reo," she says with gentle conviction.

Then you have ambassadors like Lidu Gong from China, who is the library assistant at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and a fluent speaker of the Māori language.

Like a strong Māori orator, he beams as he expresses himself, "All that is good for Māori is good for all peoples of the land and for peoples of the world."

Who says te reo Māori doesn't have an international appeal?