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Keen student glad to start at new kura kaupapa

Riria Dalton-Reedy

A new school has opened in Papakura, South Auckland enabling local students to delve deeper into their Māoritanga.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Te Ramaroa Hughes (Ngāpuhi) is one of the newly enrolled students at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngaa Papaonekura, who officially opened their new facility with a dawn ceremony and pōwhiri today.

Seventeen-year-old Hughes is one of 40 new students set to start school next week.

“I am extremely excited to be [part of] all of this, and I’m proud I can be here,” he says.

There are 65 kura kaupapa Māori across the motu, with Ngā Papaonekura the latest to join the ranks 20 years since the last one opened.

Hughes is transitioning from mainstream schooling to full Māori immersion.

He says his parents support his decision to move to kura kaupapa Māori and hopes to learn more about his culture and language in the process.

‘Significant for community’

“I hope I can leave this school with full knowledge of that”.

Hughes was previously enrolled in Papakura High School’s mainstream unit.

Papakura High School came under fire in 2022 over racism and bullying accusations when several Māori staff quit.

Hughes says he jumped at the chance to join the new school.

Papakura High School has been asked for comment but has not yet replied.

The Ministry of Education’s Max Wehi says the school’s establishment is significant for the community.

20 years ‘too long’

“It’s fair to say that the Papakura rohe has been crying out for a kura Māori for a long time”.

Wehi says the ministry has worked hard with local whānau, as well as Te Kura Kaupapa Māori ā Rohe o Māngere and Te Rūnanga Nui o Ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori o Aotearoa to get the school up and running.

But he admits 20 years is far too long to wait for a new establishment, and the Ministry’s partnerships need to improve.

“There needs to be better connections between the ministry and our Māori partners when it comes to establishing kura”.

Wehi says the ministry is developing a more collaborative approach with whānau. “They’re the one with the ideas, with the whakaaro [and] dreams - the ministry just needs to be more enabling.”

‘Definitely a fist pump’

Wehi says Ngā Papaonekura still has kura teina status, and is under TKKM ā Rohe o Māngere until it gains full independence.

“[The school is] still on its path towards becoming a full designated character school”.

Wehi says the parties’ collaborative efforts enabled Ngā Papaonekura get up and running in less than two years.

“For us it’s definitely a fist pump for being able to start this kura in such a short period of time.”

Fellow student Jaylea Hughes (Ngāpuhi), who has attended the school for one year, says the establishment of this kura provides a safe space for Māori students. “It means they have a safe place to go to and be themselves”.

Hero Image: Te Ramaroa Hughes is one of the 40 students enrolled at the new school Photo / Te Ao News

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