"Bring the kōhanga reo children to the marae" - Moehau Reedy

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Kuini Moehau Reedy is calling on kōhanga reo around the country to reconnect with their marae, identifying a need for elders and Māori in general to further support kōhanga reo and Māori language education.

"The language nests, bring them back on to our marae so the spirits of our ancestors stay warm, there lies the autonomy and power of the spirit."

A key component of the kōhanga reo movement since its inception, Moehau Reedy says it's still possible for kōhanga to connect to marae despite the distance.

"The few elders who remain can't chase the little ones around everywhere, but if they bring them to our marae maybe those who are still alive can participate," she says.

In the early years, there were around 800 kōhanga reo, now there around 440.  Moehau Reedy says many Māori are pursuing Pākehā avenues of education and neglecting the grassroots Māori immersion education movements of kōhanga reo and kura kaupapa Māori.

"They've found an easier path, leaving it for others to maintain.  There has been a return to the ways that saw Māori language relinquished in the time of the Native Schools, leaving others to protect it."

Moehau Reedy says it's not that elders must teach, merely that they reconnect so that the children can have that experience.

"It's just going along to establish the way, for the children to see you face-to-face and interact and for the staff who are rearing our children, the young teachers and the parents to know that they're being paid attention to and that the movement still holds prestige.

"There are many responsibilities that we have as elders, this is another one, dear elders.  Gather together our inherent treasured possessions that sit here on our tongues."