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No. 34 (March 1961)
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IN SEARCH OF KNOWLEDGE A MAORI SCHOOL CHILDREN'S TOUR
PART 1

Mr Schwimmer, Editor of Te Ao Hou and now on leave, wrote this article for the magazine Education and it was printed in their September 1960 number. Te Ao Hou acknowledges with thanks the permission of the Schools Publication Branch to reprint the article.

I. PUNARUKU AND ITS SCHOOL

It is reading period and I see two boys looking at the same book, while another one lies unused by their side. “Why don't you read the other one, Henry?” I ask. “Oh, I have read that one at least 20 times.”

Both books are about fish. All books about fish are very well read in our library.

The Ngati Wai

The Ngati Wai traditionally like the water very much better than the land. On the water they travelled, fought, migrated, fished. Their main fortifications were on the Whangaruru peninsula, * linked to the mainland by a narrow chain of hills and a swamp. That is where they used to grow their kumaras in distant days and also, after the Europeans came, their wheat, their sheep and their cattle.

The peninsula and the island nearby were also the site of the first school, the first store. The first post office, although on the mainland, was along the beach among the rocks, near a jetty, but unreachable by any road.

The modern era pried the Ngati Wai reluctantly from their rocky beaches and island to the new road they built during the depression. People started to live along the road because it was convenient. Those who happened to have lands close to it began to farm these and abandon their land on the peninsula. A school was opened along the road at Punaruku; now, instead of the children crossing the water to go to the old school on the peninsula, they had a new school in the new development area.

Since the war the rapid move began out of the district to Auckland, to Whangarei, to the freezing works at Moerewa. The land-development scheme proved to be no success: the farms, often too small and too rugged, not always well managed, produced very little revenue and compared poorly with the economics of labouring in town. The fishing industry was badly knocked by the incursion of commercial trawlers into the Ngati Wai fishing grounds; when these trawlers were stopped, most of the fish had disappeaed. Although even now people spend much of their time by the sea, their catches poorly reward their time.

During the war many had discovered they could be tradesmen; they preferred to continue doing what they had learned in the armed services, or war industries, rather than cope with the far harder life at home. Many houses began to stand empty, especially on the peninsula, once populous but now virtually deserted. The houses along the mainland beaches, with their difficult land access, followed next, although some are still inhabited. Lastly, even the houses along the road are falling into disuse as one family after another gives up its ancestral home.

Many men, anxious to cling to their old life, left the houses inhabited by their wives and children, and went to work outside the district. Sometimes the wives join them: the children are left

* Half way between Whangarei and the Bay of Islands.

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in the care of a relative—grandparent, uncle or aunt, or older sister. The parents come back home when they can, but often this is only rarely.

Problems of the High School

Just after the war the Punaruku Maori School was made a district high school, serving not only the people along the road but also Ngaiotonga, where a new development scheme of the Department of Maori Affairs has just been established.

Until then, those families who could, had sent their children to boarding schools, where some of them did well and passed their School Certificate. Although some of these children had good careers subsequently, many preferred, as soon as they had finished their studies, to take up unskilled jobs where they felt secure in a familiar environment.

The high school did not, when first opened, have the same prestige as the boarding schools, nor were the scholastic results of these first years sufficiently encouraging to change the opinions of the people.

It is not hard to see why. The boarding schools had provided the children with a way of life specially planned to encourage learning—regular meals and bed times, constant supervision, fixed study period for homework, an atmosphere of learning, a blotting out of all those influences of village life which might distract the children. In these circumstances the average Maori child has a good chance of success at examinations, although difficulties may set in when the children leave the cloistered atmosphere of boarding schools for the outside world.

The failure of the farms has left behind a distressing listlessness and sense of defeat; the absence of so many parents increases the children's aimlessnes; the community, with its traditions and its economy in a state of collapse, suffers from acute cultural impoverishment.

The effect of this on the attainment of school children, although hard to measure, must be severe. It puts unbelievable limits on working vocabulary, as well as on familiarity with the outside world, while the listlessness that goes with such impoverishment inhibits rather than encourages the inborn desire to learn.

II. AN EDUCATIONAL TOUR IS PLANNED

Purposes of the Tour

How can a small district high school such as the one at Punaruku go ahead? First, it has to provide experiences that will stimulate the intellectual growth of the children, and somehow drive away the ubiquitous sense of failure that envelops them like a mist. Secondly, it must cope with the boarding-school complex, the feeling that the local school does not really provide competitive education.

Both these purposes were served in the educational tour organised recently by the present head teacher of Punaruku M.D.H.S., Mr H. J. Bates. This tour was a landmark in the battle against cultural impoverishment, and in gaining the local people's esteem and admiration for the school. It produced a genuine change of attitude in the community, and as always, when a change of attitude has to be induced, the hardest work for this tour was in preparing for it, in bringing about a spirit in which the idea of the tour would be accepted and valued.

Initiating the Tour

The tour could only take place if it had the strongest support in the community. Without very positive support it would have been impossible to get the money.

There is very little money in Punaruku. People's diet is very simple—bread, seafood, and the vegetables they grow. Apart from food, very little is bought. Yet when there is a cause close to the heart—a trip to the Latter Day Saints Temple in Hamilton, or some other thing greatly desired, money has a habit of coming to light everywhere. In such an atmosphere it would be virtually impossible to collect from parents even £2 for a school tour that was not really wanted. On the other hand, if the school could somehow win the people's hearts, the cost, whatever it was, would be no obstacle. Furthermore, the high school is small: even with the inclusion of Form II, only 45 pupils. Of these, most would have to come on the tour if we were to fill the bus. Support would therefore have to be general, it would have to come from the farmers with their sadly low production, from the absentee parents, from the casual labourers, from the pensioners even—and pensioners in Punaruku are numerous.

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A public meeting was called, just after church on Sunday. A little coercion there, because it had been arranged that the bus would not bring the worshippers back home until after the meeting at the school was finished. The attendance was most gratifying; the meeting was told that the cost would be £6/7/6 per head, as well as a large school committee subsidy. A deposit of £2/10/- per head would be payable immediately. The meeting voted in favour.

Furthermore, the head teacher suggested that all those children who wanted to go on the tour would need to have a full school uniform. For some years, successive head teachers had tried to persuade parents to buy uniforms for their high-school pupils, but so far always without success. There were some minor disagreements as to the style and colour of the uniform; some people had bought garments they imagined to be the uniform; in actual fact no two pupils dressed alike.

A fashion parade was held at which the children showed off several different possible uniforms. The meeting again agreed that uniforms should be bought, chose red blazers, three-coloured monograms, all the usual accessories, but no boys' caps (for the sake of economy). All sternly insisted on black stockings for the girls.

Raising the Money

In this way we had agreement in principle for the whole plan, but it was still as uncertain as before whether the tour would really be supported. Community behaviour, as usual, was ambivalent. A few staunch supporters paid the deposits, others said they definitely did not have the money, someone sent in 10/-, one of the girls started doing odd jobs and bringing the head teacher such amounts at 4/3, 10/6, once every few weeks. The headmaster himself offered some boys odd jobs around his house at so much per hour, to encourage a spirit of sturdy enterprise in the earning of the necessary cash. But this, including the uniform, was now up to £25 per pupil.

A circular was sent out asking people to list what uniform items they wanted the school to order for them. This produced some further, again inconclusive, evidence.

The two things that gradually won over the people were probably these: in the previous year a group of school children from Matakana Island (near Tauranga) had visited Punaruku and been billetted in local homes. The children's desire to make a return visit fell within the Maori idea of valid sentiment, especially as everyone in the community knew the Matakana children and could visualise them.

Furthermore, the head teacher and the school committee had managed to buy a film projector last year; the weekly films shown with this projector provided the only entertainment in the district. This had established much good will and confidence in school enterprises.

A Programme Is Prepared

Meanwhile the tour programme took definite form. The first night, in deference to the large Mormon majority, would be spent at the Church College, near Hamilton—the community was thrilled at this. The next night we would stay at a Maori meeting house near Rotorua, thanks to the help of the Department of Maori Affairs. Late in the third afternoon (a Friday) we would cross from Tauranga to Matakana for our return visit.

As the head teacher attaches great value to regional geography, this part of the tour would be used for a study of three regions, Northland, the Waikato, and the Volcanic Plateau, with a look at the Hauraki Plains on the way back.

Soils, farming, industries, and population centres could be looked at as we travelled, with special stops for hydro-electric stations, various thermal phenomena, and the pulp and paper mill at Kawerau.

The tour was so timed that after a weekend at Matakana Island (for sports, a concert, and a free day), we would reach Auckland in the middle of the Auckland Festival. We would spend a generous amount of time on music, drama, opera, and exhibitions at the festival, and at the same time visit a few factories, offices, the museum, the planetarium, and the zoo.

In this way the tour would serve practically all the subjects taught at the high school—geography, English, science, commercial practice, clothing (as a large office and clothing factory were on the schedule), Maori studies, music and art. It would give a varied picture of life in New Zealand.

The Financial Effort

Just before the end of the first term, nine deposits had been paid, as well as some partial deposits; others again had signed agreements to let their children go, but added no cash. The Department of Maori Affairs had provided a subsidy of £20. One could expect either a last-minute rush to pay in the necessary money, or last-minute community verdict to drop the whole idea. Both were equally possible.

However, about this time the tide began to turn. One could begin to feel the pressure of community feeling in support of the tour. A social committee of the Ngati Wai began to raise money by subscription, and by organising a dance and a hangi, collecting £22. The first school uniforms arrived; as decided by the school committee, these were supplied on payment of only one-third deposit, the rest of the money being collected after the tour. The appearance of the first red, monogramed blazers in Punaruku convinced the people that the school really meant business. Children began to receive money from older brothers working in town and other absent relatives.

Now the head teacher ordered uniforms on

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a sale or return basis, for all the doubtful cases.

The few European farmers in the district now began to offer jobs for more pupils, and so did the shopkeepers. The children whose money was assured helped the less fortunate in labour contracts, so that the majority of our high school pupils spent the holidays in manual labour—digging drains, catching fish for sale, etc. One smallish girl, but muscular and determined, took up scrub-cutting.

School Preparation

Meanwhile, school lessons had been planned to prepare pupils for what they would see—subjects like the pulp and paper industry were carefully covered. There was intensive training in football and basketball. An action song party was trained with the help of the secretary of the school committee, Mrs Piripi.

As action songs are not part of the daily pattern at Punaruku, this took quite some effort, our programme by the end of the term being no more than a respectable minimum. We were fortunate in our leader, a husky fellow whom I shall call Wiri. Wiri, now in the fourth form, reads haltingly and only simple words; he is beginning to do elementary fractions in arithmetic. He is boisterous, and very sensitive to his place at the bottom of any school class. Yet he has a shrewd sense in quite a few things, as one notices in classroom discussions; he makes a big effort to learn what he can, and he beamed from ear to ear when he was given his first leadership role at the school. He has all the qualities of a good haka man: rhythm, accurate movements, spirit, humour and a good voice. He did a good deal to lift the others out of their natural listlessness.

Also in preparation for the tour, the children were taught some European folk dances, which would be part of our concert programme.

The Last Two Days

The tour began on the third day of the winter term. Our two last days can only be remembered through a haze of excitement: much of this time was spent in teaching; in handing round special exercise books, geographic sketch maps, festival programmes; in sports and dancing parties, and more especially in talking about the things that were going to happen.

There was an evening concert where the community (naturally, for a fee) came to see our artistic programme. But this had more than doubled in length and interest during the term holidays. Instead of the respectable minimum we had before we now had a most varied and entertaining collection of items, some old familiars, but mostly polished up for the occasion, solo songs, comic episodes, and above all, a most vigorous performance by about 12 of the children, partly troubadour, partly Hawaiian.

The enrolment troubles were over; on the first day of the term the fees of 29 pupils were definitely settled, some others were more or less resigned to staying at home, but there were three very sad faces on Monday.

That evening two families changed their minds, bringing the tally of children to 32. In addition, three teachers were going, the secretary of the school committee, another Maori woman, and—our last accession, signed up just before the bus left—Waitai Pita, aged 82, commonly known in the community as Father Christmas. He was considered very sickly, but his heart was conquered by the concert; furthermore his family, on his mother's side, originally came from Motiti Island, near Tauranga. He hoped to meet some of his mother's relations on this tour and to find out more about his ancestry.

In this way the school had, before the tour began, won the heart of the community, and the whole high school was most impressively uniformed. Furthermore, in spite of devoting over £40 to festival tickets, the school committee was in a healthy financial state; it did not look as though its subsidy of the tour would need to be too substantial.

III. ON THE ROAD

Church College

We had borrowed a guitar in a huge wooden case. The bus was so full that the case had to stand in the aisle of the bus. On our journey down to Hamilton, very soon the guitar was released from its formidable coffin, the playing and singing being interrupted as from time to time the head teacher pointed out important points in the landscape, a dairy factory, or the power scheme at Meremere. For a while there would then be questions asked about things seen from the road, notes would be written in the exercise books, after which gradually the music would start again.

Although some of the Punaruku people had visited the L.D.S. Temple, the religious settlement near Hamilton was to most only a legend of sacrednes and splendour. We had our dinner in the college cafeteria, a large brightly lit hall in the spacious and opulent architecture of the recreation building. For our accommodation we were given two large recreations halls tiled with highly polished plastic. A Mormon elder came into the boys' quarters to mention a college rule: no shoes to be worn in this hall. The boys were obviously thrilled to be asked to observe a rule at this college; it established a sort of familiarity.

We went through the huge gleaming gymnasium to the swimming pool, of Olympic size, fully tiled, and walled with glass. Above the pool was a large spectators' gallery. Few Church College students were at the pool, for Wednesday nights are given over to homework. Those who did swim were not exuberant like our back-country invaders; they were restrained and deliberate. The clear blue pool, the dressing rooms, the showers, the gallery above, all helped to give

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our pupils the feel of this American-styled College.

As they walked back to their dormitories they saw, commanding the whole view of the college settlement, the floodlit temple, silvery on its dark hill.

Some of our party had relations among the pupils or among the families living in the Temple View settlement. They were all with us at breakfast time and separated from us only when the college principal, Dr Boyack, took us on a conducted tour of the college and of the precincts of the temple itself.

Coffins Above the Ground

We spent our second day studying the Waikato district, the hydro-electric dams and the forests, with a late afternoon visit to the geysers and hot pools of Whakarewarewa.

The deepest impressions children take away from such visits are never predictable. After our return, one girl remembered Whakarewarewa mainly in this image: “As we were walking along the track we came across the coffins of people who had died: these coffins were under the concrete, built above the ground. This was done because it would prevent steam from getting at them.”

Maori Welcome

Takinga marae, on the southern tip of Lake Rotoiti, is one of those monuments of modern Maori culture created by those who believe there is still a worth-while future for Maori tradition. There was a fully carved and decorated meeting house on this marae, opened earlier this year; by its side stood a well appointed dining hall, while the sanitary and washing facilities were also thoroughly up to dtae. The carved house, executed in the best Arawa style, was erected under the inspiration of the Ngati Pikiao chief, Major Reiwhatu Vercoe, a prominent champion of Maori culture.

It was here that our school party was invited for the night. Staying in a carved house was a strange experience to our Northland children; so we found to our surprise, was the ceremonial of our welcome. The Major met us at the gate and told us he would like us to enter with proper ceremony. He wished this partly to preserve the respect due to his marae, but also undoubtedly to give the children an educational experience which he considered important for them.

We waited while the people on the marae got ready for our welcome. Then, led by our elder, Waitai Pita, we moved in slow procession towards the meeting house while the women standing on its porch raised the traditional wail, which in this case was brief, for we were an unknown tribe with whom the people of Takinga shared no dead.

This Powhiri was followed by the hongi—our party slowly passed in front of the row of hosts and rubbed noses with all. We were then motioned to the seats by the side of the marae to listen to the speeches of welcome, which were brief, the Major explained, because dinner was ready. In slow, clear Maori, the Major spoke the usual words of mourning for the dead, then made some pleasant references to his young visitors. Waitai Pita replied, after which we filed in to a splendid dinner, served in the usual Maori style with little side dishes and bottles of fizz on the tables.

Later in the evening there were more speeches in the dining hall, as well as an improvised concert. Major Vercoe told our group that the people of Takinga wished to help them because they were Maori children on an “instructional tour”. We watched the practised movements of the Ngati Pikiao, and gave our own items, the Hawaiian ones being, as expected, immensely popular.

By far the greatest ovation was for a performance of the “double long poi” by two of our girls. This poi dance is the hardest and most spectacular of modern Maori dances. The performer, accompanied by music, rapidly twirls two poi balls, each attached to a long string; and each ball executes a quite distinct, highly complex figure at great speed. During the climax of the dance, the two balls, still moving in distinct courses, are controlled by one hand, in perfect beat with the

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music. Only very few people have the rhythmical sense and wrist control to perform this dance. What added to the impressiveness of our performance was that the two girls, who were sisters, happened to be the only Europeans in our group.

Exhausted, we fell asleep on our snow-white embroidered pillows, dimly regarded by the redochre ancestors of the Ngati Pikiao.

The next morning we further experienced the generosity of our hosts when we were all invited for a cruise over Lake Rotoiti on a luxury yacht. Before leaving the marae our elder presented, with an appropriate oration, the cheque (“poukai”) which the school committee had prepared as a donation, but to our surprise the elder of our hosts handed it back again as a final gift, thus ending brilliantly the lesson his people had given us in “modern Maori culture”.

to be continued

SINGLE PREMIUM MORTGAGE REPAYMENTS

The Board of Maori Affairs now has authority to advance money for Maori housing to pay the premium on a single-premium mortgage repayment insurance policy. Legislation passed in the last week of the 1960 Parliamentary session provided the authority for the Board of Maori Affairs to make the advances. This brings the Board's policy nearer that of the State Advances Corporation which already lends, under certain conditions, the cost of single premium mortgage repayments. Insurance premium loans will be made up to £120 and would be additional to money loaned mortgagors towards the cost of house-building.

It is felt that too few Maoris take advantage of this type of insurance cover, which in the event of a borrower's untimely death lifts the burden of a mortgage debt from his widow and children. This is due probably to the fact that, with their larger families and smaller incomes, most Maoris find it difficult to meet annual premiums, and impossible to raise the large amounts required if the cover were a single premium, as well as the cost of furniture and the cash payment toward the new house.

Under this scheme, where the premium is advanced by the Board of Maori Affairs, the approved insurance offices would be those approved by the State Advances Corporation for mortgage repayment insurance. The new policy will apply generally to existing loans, provided that the re payment term for the additional loan does not exceed five years, and interest would be charged at 5 per cent.

KO TE UTU TOPU I TE INIHUA MOKETE

Kua whakamana Te Paori Mo Nga Take Maori ki te tuku moni i runga i te mokete hei utu topu i te moni inihua mo te mokete whare. No te wiki whakamutunga o te tunga o te Paremata i te tau 1960 i whakamana ai taua Paori ki te tuku moni penei. Kua rite Te Paori Mo Nga Take Maori ki tera Tari Kawanatanga ki Te State Advances Corporation kua tuku moni penei noa atu ki nga tangata e tika ana. Tera e eke taua moni ki te £120 a ka apititia atu ki te moni mokete mo te hanga whare.

He tokoiti rawa atu nga Maori kei te tango inihua penei, ara he inihua mo te mate rawa ake te tane ka ea te moni mokete a ka noho pai te wahine me nga tamariki. Ko te take nui pea e kore nei e tango i taua inihua ko te nuinga o te hunga Maori e tango moni mokete ana hei hanga whare he tokomaha a ratou tamariki a pau tonu te oranga ki te utu haere i te mokete, ki te tango taputapu mo te whare a kaore e taea te utu topu o tenei momo inihua.

Ki te tukua e Te Poari Mo Nga Mea Maori taua moni kei Te State Advances Corporation nga Tari Inihua. Ka taea e te hunga kua tango moni mokete noa atu te tango tenei momo inihua engari me hoki taua moni i roto o te rima tau a e 5 paihaneti te itareti.