Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa Go to Te Ao Hou homepage
No. 25 (December 1958)
– 12 –

VALUES OF A
MAORI
BOARDING SCHOOL

Last December (1957) I said a sad farewell to a college that had been my home for the past six years. Looking back, I regard those years not merely as “old school years” but as years of moral, cultural and educational moulding. I have been left with a new sense of responsibility and a desire to work always for the good of this country and the people in it.

First let me assert that I am just another old boy of the college—no one worthy of more attention than any other old boy, in fact what I say here may have been said before and has probably been in the minds of hundreds of men and women from Maori church boarding schools over New Zealand. I do not wish you to think that I am a person of great responsibility or high position; neither do I wish to sound as if I am just boasting about my own school—I am merely pointing out some of the benefits that I personally have received over the past six years and the advantages that a Maori church boarding school has over the ordinary day schools.

I come from the West Coast of the North Island—from a predominantly European locality—and my primary school days were spent with Pakeha youngsters. I must confess that although I am a half-caste Maori, I hardly knew the real meaning of the word “Maori”. I was completely oblivious to the proud heritage into which I had been born. I knew nothing of Maori culture and had the greatest difficulty in pronouncing Maori place names, let alone in speaking the language. I was to all intents and purposes a “Maori pakeha.”

Then in February 1952, I started as a 3rd former at Te Aute Maori Boys' College in Central Hawkes Bay. I was barely 13 and had never been away fom home for more than a few weeks at a time. It was the start of a new life in many ways—my pals were now all Maori youngsters, I was living in a Maori community away from parental care, I was just one of a large family and had to do my share (small though it was) towards the life of the college. At the same time I was beginning to realise that I was a Maori and that it was just about time for me to wake up and be one.

Fortunately, Maori was a compulsory subject and at last I was able to set about learning the language of my forefathers—a language which up till then I had scarce heard about. I also found the opportunity to join the Maori Culture group which taught members old Maori games (such as “whai” and “ti ringa”) as well as old and modern action songs and hakas. A pleasing feature about the culture group was that it was conducted entirely by senior boys who were ever so keen that these treasures of Maoridom should be preserved by lads like ourselves. In addition to the above we were fortunate in having in our library a special section on New Zealand history and literature and it was with an increasing interest that I delved into books by such writers as Buck. Kohere, Best and Ramsden. Wistfully I looked back on my early childhood days regretting the fact that I had been content to let such an inheritance slip carelessly away.

Meanwhile I was beginning to see a better conception of Maori ways and was able to appreciate the differences between European and Maori social life. Here we were—about 120 young Maori boys from all sorts of homes in all sorts of places, thrown together for 40 weeks of the year. Together we played, laughed, and worked and each was able to contribute something that was new to the others: a new phase of culture, a tribal characteristic, a new haka, stories about “home”—all went to unify us. From our midst leaders were arising to be given positions of authority—prefects, rugby captains, house captains — indeed those who had powers of leadership were given every opportunity to develop them.

As far as scholastic work itself went the facilities were all that could be desired. No outside distractions to drag one away from lessons prevailed; the nightly two hours compulsory prep., at first irksome, was later sincerely appreciated and following the example of others, I used much of my spare time to do still extra study. Numbers of us have reaped the benefits from this in the

– 13 –

School Certificate and University Entrance Examinations.

Another credential to our boarding schools is the useful way in which spare time is utilized. Whereas at a day school the pupils are free when school is out, at a boarding school organised sport and games are arranged and leisure time may be profitably spent—not in hanging around town, attending every new film or dance (as is so often the case today), but in physical exercise or mental stimulation in a well stocked library. Associated with sport (rugby in this instance), the senior boys used to make a tour in the winter vacation. I was included in one of these around the East Coast and have never regretted the experience. It was wonderful to be able to meet the Ngati Porou people, to exchange items and to witness Maori hospitality in its true form.

Apart from meeting Maori elders we were also given the opportunity to meet the better types of Pakeha adults. The staff at a Maori boarding school always seem so willing to do more than just instruct pupils—they become friendly with the boys and take a personal interest in each student. On several occasions groups of us were invited to their various homes for a meal or an afternoon. In addition, local Pakeha friends of the college frequently had boys up to their homes for an afternoon. This is a wonderful means of letting us all see the finer points of modern society and of giving the “back blocker” a chance to see European culture.

I could not conclude this article without mentioning the vital “4th R”—Religion. With a permanent chaplain at the college and our own renovated chapel, Christian worship has now come to mean something very dear and essential to me. Divinity periods have given me an opportunity to think more widely about Christian doctrines and appreciate the Bible messages, while daily chapel services have led me to accept a religion which all too often is neglected or misunderstood in the busy world today.

I have so far tried to point out some of the benefits that a Maori church boarding school can give the Maori youth today. Summarily they are: a knowledge of Maori customs and culture along with a better understanding of Maori nature (these two culminating in a strong inclination to help preserve something of Maoritanga); a chance to develop qualities of leadership; a strong community spirit; better facilities for study and hence greater chances of passing State exams; organised sport and games in leisure time; associations with Maori elders and better type Pakehas; and last (but not least) a solid grounding in the Christian religion.

Last year several newspapers showed that finance and falling rolls were matters of concern to Maori Church schools. Some people also think that the day of the old Church boarding schools is over—there places may be taken by new high schools. These are most distressing ideas to me as there is a rich heritage and tradition at these old established colleges that cannot be found at an ordinary high school. I realise myself that had I attended a local high school, I would still be sadly ignorant of a Maori cultural background. While I am still far from anything like a compotent Maori scholar, I boast that at least I have gained some knowledge of Maori culture and have had the opportunity to live in (and to love) a Maori community. I am aware now what a wonderful thing it is to be a Maori—a Christian Maori—and that I, as an individual, have a debt in doing my bit towards maintaining Maoritanga.

After six years at a Maori college I have been imbued with a strong desire to help others, who like my “former self” are content to drop everything Maori about them. I can suggest no better remedy than an education at a Maori Church boarding school. I will always be grateful to my old school—not just for giving me a scholastic education—but for introducing me to Maoritanga.

⋆ ⋆ ⋆

Money has been allocated by the National Historic Places Trust for the preservation and protection of two historic sites on the Wanganui River. These are the Maori rock carvings in the Kohi Gorge and Kemp's Pole at Raorikia.

⋆ ⋆ ⋆

The active Te Rahui Tribal Committee at Tokoroa has raised £1000 towards a social hall. New Zealand Forest Products are willing to sell the necessary land for the hall for the nominal sum of £5, but as the hall will be a large and well-equipped one, much more money will need to be raised.

The committee also has a welfare and educational programme. They presented the local high school with a copy of The Coming of the Maori by Sir Peter Buck, and a file of back numbers, with a subscription to Te Ao Hou.

⋆ ⋆ ⋆

There is no ground for a rumour that the Paeroa sub-office of the Department of Maori Affairs will be closed. Although some reorganization in the area has been going on, the sub-office will remain open and a field supervisor will be stationed in the town.

⋆ ⋆ ⋆

The Awarua Maori Gun Club was opened officially late last July. President of the club is Mr W. R. Counsell, and the secretary Mr R. Kotua. The opening, which was a particularly successful day of shooting, was at Mr P. Potaka's property at Utiku. Both Mr Kotua and Mr S. Pine showed themselves very excellent shots indeed.