Within the settler state of New Zealand, education has been a force for social transformation, both positive and negative. Throughout the first 150 years of contact between the indigenous Maori and the British colonists, education was one of the strategies employed to assimilate Maori; they were transformed from members of sovereign nations (iwi) into British subjects. Not only did the state education system operate to eradicate Maori language and culture; it also relegated Maori people to the margins of the colonial economy, limiting their access to academic qualifications and grooming them to become manual labourers. This social experiment resulted in both physical and cultural impoverishment for Maori. By the mid-1900s, statistics revealed their extreme social, political and economic vulnerability. There were also unmistakable signs—dwindling numbers able to speak the language, for example—of a rapidly growing sense of cultural disconnection.In 1975, a coalition of three iwi (known as the ART confederation) launched a counter-assimilatory strategy which focused on revitalisation of Maori language, reconnection with cultural institutions and restoration of traditional values to the heart of Maori thinking and practice. Central to this activity has been the establishment of Te Wananga o Raukawa. This tertiary education institution has redefined the notion of educational achievement for Maori. It seeks to transform Maori futures and, in so doing, to transform the colonial state of New Zealand. Once again education is being utilised as a tool for social change; but this time, Maori are wielding it and the goal is decolonisation.
Annabel Lucy (Ani) Mikaere, Te Wananga o Raukawa, New Zealand
Stream: Education and post-colonialism
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