A MAORI SCHOOL
Above: One of the oldest chiefs of the district, Mr Kahu Te Kura (right) who was one of the earliest pupils at the first Tokaanu school breaks out the flag. On the left: Mr Tu Kahu. Below: General view of the new school. (Twentieth Century Photography, Taumarunui.)
Department of Maori Affairs, Taumarunui.
The opening of the Kuratau Maori School marks a very considerable change in the landscape between Tokaanu and Taumarunui. Not so long ago, the land surrounding Kuratau was worthless scrub, flanked by inaccessible forest. Now there is a highway right through from Tokaanu to Taumarunui; vast land development schemes are in progress at Kuratau, at Hauhungaroa, at Pukawa and all along the road to Waihi.
The children of settlers and workers on all these schemes now have an excellent new school to go to. It was open for lessons last October, with a roll of 70, which has already risen to 93, On 23rd April it was officially declared open by Mr D. C. Seath M.P., in a touching ceremony in which the Maori leaders in the district took an enthusiastic part. Most of the children now going to Kuratau school come from nearby milling centres and from the unit farms already established on the newly developed land. The school can accomodate a maximum of 115 pupils; this figure will be reached very soon.
In fact, within a few years it may well be exceeded; the Department of Maori Affairs has land development schemes in the area totalling almost 24,000 acres. Over half this acreage has been developed and the rest is expected to follow soon. Ultimately 45 settlers will be occupying this land, mainly on sheep farms; of these only 9 are
Mr Kahu Te Kura addresses the children at the school during the opening ceremonies. Left of him is Mr J. Asher, master of ceremonies, seated are the other prominent visitors. (Twentieth Century Photography. Taumarunui.)
In addition to departmental development there are some 9,000 acres being broken in by the Lands Department and by two Maori incorporations (Hauhungaroa and Puketapu).
THE OPENING CEREMONY
At the opening day the official party assembled at the gates of the school and then made its way through a guard of honour of pupils dressed in Maori costume as they chanted a traditional Maori welcome and waved branches of greenery.
Mr Joe Hoko gave the official Maori Welcome and this was responded to by Mrs Wright, the Senior Lady Welfare Officer. Little Mary Kereopa presented a bouquet to Mrs Seath, wife of Mr D. C. Seath, M.P.
Chairman was a prominent Maori leader and member of the Tuwharetoa Advisory Committee. Mr J. A. Asher, whose family donated the land for the school, and the official party included Mr and Mrs Seath; Hepi te Heubeu, paramount chief Tuwharetoa Tribe; Ben Christy, Chairman of the School (an ex-Maori Welfare Officer who has now taken up farming on the block under the Rehabilitation scheme); Kahu Te Kura, one of the oldest chiefs; Canon Wi Huata; P. A. Grace; G. L. Stafford, Inspector of Maori Schools, and many others.
Mr Asher delivered an opening address. He then called on Mr Ben Christy, Chairman of the School Committee, who extended a welcome to the visitors to the ceremony and appreciation to the Paurini family for its gift of the land for the building, and also to the Education Department for erecting the building.
The headmaster of the new school, Mr B. James, was the next speaker, who said he was impressed at the interest shown in the school by the local residents and parents.
An action song by the pupils delighted the audience and then one of the oldest surviving chiefs, Kahu te Kura, spoke. Kahu te Kura was an original pupil at the first Tokaanu Maori school and said he thought that, today, education for Maori children took precedence over everything else. Tribal lands and even Maori culture should take second place to modern education which allowed Maori children to be measured by the same yardstick as their European friends. With education, Maori children would be well protected in the future.
He then walked to the flagpole and broke out the New Zealand flag while the children sang the National and New Zealand anthems.
Mr D. C. Seath. M.P. officially declared the building open.