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Manaakitanga in ECE

Mā te huruhuru, ka rere te manu.

Adorn the bird with feathers, so it can fly. (Whakataukī – Māori proverb)

At Play Learn Grow early childcare education centre we have a number of kaiako (teachers) with māori whakapapa (ancestry). This is why we are so passionate about Te Whāriki. He Whāriki Mātauranga mō ngā Mokopuna o Aotearoa – the early childcare education curriculum for Aoteoroa (New Zealand).

We demonstrate manaakitanga which is a crucual Māori principle that is at the heart of Te Whāriki: He Whāriki Mātauranga mō ngā Mokopuna o Aotearoa. We consider manaakitanga to be the process of enhancing peoples mana, by showing care, respect, kindness and generosity for others.

Manaakitanga weaves in to the strands of the ECE curriculum. The Ministry of Education state: “Children’s learning and development are fostered if the well-being of their family and community is supported; if their family, culture, knowledge and community are respected; and if there is a strong connection and consistency among all the aspects of the child’s world”. This is where manaakitanga comes in looking at pre-schoolers well-being in a holistic sense.

Manaakitanga at Play Learn Grow ECE

We kōrero with children about sharing (why it is important, praising good behaviours, politely pointing out not such good behaviour), kaitiakitanga (caring for the environment, another tikanga māori principle), welcoming new whānau (mihi whakatau or shorted pōwhiri for whānau of bigger kids) and settling periods as tamariki transition from home to Play Learn Grow ECE, or from another centre. We teaching care and respect for other tamariki, for our outdoor play area resources and indoor resources. Our kaiako to guide tamariki to set ground rules, and we remind tamariki if or when there is a rule breach of the rules they contributed to setting.

We do a short karakia before eating lunch, as we are thankful for it, and we build and nurture strong relationship with parents and staff. Play Learn Grow teachers create an environment of respect where our highly skilled teachers develop tamariki to grow and develop physically, mentally, socially, whilst playing and learning.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic we had visited places in the community. I took my kids to a local rest home to bring smiles on the faces of the elderly. We reach out to local schools and visit them to ensure the transition is not too hard. We listen to concerns of parents about sending in children into school environments with many hundreds of children, and to ease concerns we keep children past age 5 (tamariki have to go to school by their 6th birthday though). During changes in Alert Levels we communicate with whānau and stay open to serve the needs of Auckland’s essential workers (without other childcare options), even when some other centres stay shut.

Play Learn Grow teachers have completed or are enrolled in the Incredible Years Programme on child behaviour and management techniques. This is best practice, which certainly not every centre has their staff doing. However this is an important for Play Learn Grow teachers as we strive to be the best ECE centre in West Auckland.

Manaakitanga is all about caring and support for tamariki (children) – pre-schoolers in Play Learn Grow ECE), whānau (family) and kaiako (teachers). The Play Learn Grow culture is just so special to be a part of, and manaakitanga being so engrained in it by our Centre Manager, fellow kaiako, whānau and of course our beautiful tamariki. This to me is what sets out Play Learn Grow as the best ECE centre in West Auckland, and the best out of so many I have worked up over many years.

Waipiro Bay Marae Visit

At Play Learn Grow we acknowledges and reflect the unique place of Māori as tangata whenua. Our children are all given the opportunity to develop knowledge and an understanding of the cultural heritages of both parties to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Our curriculum respects and supports the right of each child to be confident in their own culture and encourages children to understand and respect all other cultures, of which we have a great variety of.

Over an extended Waitangi weekend I went on a 7 hour drive to Waipiro Bay between Ruatoria and Gisborne, staying at the stunning Iritekura Marae, a marae with so much mana. There was a tangihanga going on at neighbouring Taharora Marae (that we later attended) so the tangata whenua were a little down in numbers, but the pōwhiri was nevertheless outstanding.

Assembly at the waharoa and coming in with the karanga

Elder Te Naiti Te Reo was kaiwhaikōrero (main speaker) and gave a commanding mihi. The power, passion and beauty in his kōrero where there for all to see. We felt settled, reassured and welcomed to be here. The size of the journey to being our whānau that whakapapa to Ngatiwai iwi was acknowledged. Whaikōrero acknowledged the rock at Kawa Marae on Aotea brought by the Ngati Porou hapu of Iritekura and Taharora, to lay down the mauri and symbolise the connection with Kawa Marae.

Waka Huia Elder Te Reo - YouTube
Elder Te Reo Naiti – kaumātua of Iritekura & Taharora hapu of Ngāti Porou Iwi

We heard our ancestor Kewene Tamakatore. Kewene was a great warrior from the Iritekura hapu of Ngati Porou, so his home was Waipiro Bay. As a young warrior he accompanied Ngāpuhi during the musket wars, on battles with Te Mauparaoa’s ope that fought and lost to the Marutūahu iwi confederation (Ngāti Rongoū, Ngāti Tamaterā, Ngāti Whanaunga, Ngāti Maru and Ngāti Pāoa) on Aotea (Great Barrier Island) in 1838. Kewene escaped the battlefield but was captured coming down out of the bush for water. The Marutūahu men wanted to kill him but Te Mariri spared his life. He adopted the Ngatiwai gave Kewene to Takaau as a husband. Their daughter was Raihi Miraka, seen as the last great rangatira of Aotea.

Raihi Miraka – photo in Taharora marae

Oratory is a traditional and integral element of tikanga Māori (maori practice). Whaikōrero is viewed as a hallowed realm, with only a select few amongst many reaching the pinnacle. I have not reached the pinnacle and am studying towards a diploma in Tikanga Māori at Te Wānanga o Aoteoroa this year, having completed certificate courses in it previously. It was an honour to be invited by our whānau kaumātua to whaikōrero for the manuhiri (visiting group), where I got to talk for a few minutes in te reo māori.

Whānau at Iritekura Marae (Ngātiwai te iwi)

During final hākari (feast) stage of the pōwhiri, I talked with Elder and we reflected on the big question, about just how do we keep whaikōrero relevant, whilst keeping its sacred nature?

Whilst only a few days in length it was a masterclass in tikanga māori, that despite best efforts and amazing kaiako (teachers) at Te Wānanga o Aoteoroa (kia ora Desrae Popata, Aaron Henare, Blackie Tohiariki, Errin Henare & Kristin Henare), there is nothing like the real thing. This was a tremendous experience. Whether kotahitanga to prepare large meals in rapid time, clean up, play and sing waiata, the whānangatanga was beautiful. I learned about kaumātuatanga where the kaumātua talked about their responsibilities:

1) carrying the culture

2) attending and providing rituals at hui, tangi and pōwhiri on marae

3) speaking on behalf of the hapu or whānau

4) providing spiritual leadership and social control

5) resolving disputes and conflicts between whānau and iwi (or others)

6) providing guidance on matters of religious and cultural needs

7) assessing whether rahui need to be placed

8) protecting and nurturing rangitahi (younger adults) and tamariki and mokopuna

9) recognizing and encouraging the potential of younger members.

These are the challenges we face and at Play Learn Grow we love and greatly exceed the objectives enshrined in Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa (Ministry of Education’s Early Childcare Education Curriculum).

On the atea of Iritekura, Mangaone is the wharekai on the right, Waipiro Bay on the left.