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Kohanga reo ready to open in Palmerston North

CLASSROOM PREPARATION: Lorene Fitzgerald sorts through teaching resources inside Highbury's Kohanga Reo.

A long-awaited kohanga reo will be opening in Highbury this month - the next step in the Palmerston North suburb's efforts to foster families' education opportunities.

The community has been granted $100,000 of government funding from the Ministry of Education to complete a licencing programme in a bid to open a new Maori language immersion early childhood centre.

The idea was first seeded in 2003, paused until 2009, and now the Ngati Hineaute kohanga reo should be open in the next few weeks amid high hopes a chartered kura kaupapa Maori school could follow.

The Ngati Hineaute trust is made up of Rangitaane o Manawatu iwi members, led by Danielle Harris, Wiremu Te Awe Awe and Lorene Fitzgerald and involves Rangitaane's five hapu.

Fitzgerald, Ngati Hineaute chief executive, said it had been more than 15 years since kohanga reo education had been easily available to families in Highbury, Takaro, Cloverlea and Westbrook.

"What's so unique about this is it's Rangitaane's first kohanga reo," she said.

"Part of our vision was to revitalise and restore our reo, but more important our mita, or the dialect of Rangitaane."

Most of the parents who have enrolled their children spoke Maori in the home - but to ensure what is learnt at school isn't lost outside, the centre was offering te reo classes for family members to brush up.

The hapu trust offices in the Highbury Shopping Centre near Tui Reserve have been transformed into the kohanga and the budget was likely to hit $500,000.

"The reason we wanted it here in this area and in this space was because this is where the majority of our whanau live," Fitzgerald said.

The centre is working towards receiving the go-ahead from Te Kohanga Reo National Trust to be a chartered facility offering free education.

"We're hoping that through these children and their parents we can help them to then help themselves," Fitzgerald said.

"'It's all part of building our capacity for investment and for opportunities for education and employment for future generations."

The playcentre's 20 spots are already filled and a waiting list is in place.

- Manawatu Standard


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