The Te Ahu Ahu
Mrs Ruhe's article is one of a series ‘Te Ao Hou’ is publishing on playcentres in Maori communities. Some of our photographs, which are by Ans Westra, were taken at Te Ahu Ahu, and some at the playcentre in nearby Te Hapua.
An awareness in the need of pre-school education among Maori children recently brought about the formation, in Te Ahu Ahu, of a commitee of keen parents to look into the matter.
The first meeting was held at Parawhenua Hall on 1 April 1961 with Mrs Kathleen Sarich as Guest Speaker, an experienced mother from the Okaihau Playcentre. She spoke briefly of the many duties in Playcentre and how each mother must be prepared to help when her turn came to assist the Supervisor who supervised at all sessions.
Te Ahu Ahu and Waimate North Maori Women's Welfare Leagues each donated £10 to start off the funds, and with Street Stalls, card evenings and personal donations, the committee was soon able to purchase the more expensive equipment.
The Committee was most fortunate to obtain the Community Hall adjacent to the school to use as a Playcentre, and also the permission of the Education Department to use the school's water and toilet facilities.
In September 1961 Miss M. Toia, chief instigator of the project, went to Waiwera with two Maori mothers to a Supervisors' Refresher Course which proved most helpful and they returned to their community bursting with use ful information.
The Committee anticipated opening on the first school day of 1962 but sand and other equipment did not arrive in time so opening day was delayed till 14 March 1962, when eight children were enrolled.
Children at Te Ahu Ahu having their lunch outside in the sun. The Playcentre is only one year old, but it has already proved a great success.
The sessions started with Supervisor, mother helpers and children all learning this new way of life together. The sessions lasted from 9.30 a.m. till 12.30 p.m., and within those three hours the children had really explored everything within the centre, and by the time the May school holidays came around the parents and the children were confident that they would succeed.
Mrs Gwen Andrews, Northland Liaison Officer, paid us a visit in April and brought with her Mr David James of Adult Education, and with his help, most of the mothers were able to have their four introductory talks which are so necessary to enable them to do their duties at Playcentre sessions. He also showed films on painting, child behaviour at different age groups, and nursery organisations in other countries. These proved most interesting as they gave us a clearer understanding of our children and both Mrs Gwen Andrews and Mr David James have our sincere thanks.
In May, Te Ahu Ahu-Waimate North Playcentre became a life member of the Maori Education Foundation Fund.
Books were also added to the Playcentre in May and Maori children were just thirsting to know what were between those two covers. Story reading is always a favourite period especially to the 3 ½-5 year olds. There was utter silence when a story was being read and many were the times when it just had to be re-read again just to make sure that what happened to Black Sambo really did happen.
On 19 June 1962 the Te Ahu Ahu-Waimate North Playcentre was officially opened by Mrs G. Somerset, Dominion Advisor of Playcentres in New Zealand, and it was a great day with people from all walks of life present.
After the official opening Miss M. Toia, with four Maori mothers, attended a Playcentre Convention in Whangarei, where one of the mothers received her first Supervisor's Certificate. Maori and Pakeha parents intermingled exchanging ideas and from this convention was born the idea of having combined meetings at different centres each month. Te Ahu Ahu-Waimate North had their turn in November 1962 with Dr Paewai as Guest Speaker. He stressed that there must be closer unity between Maori and Pakeha through clearer understanding between the two races, and he believed that this could be done through Playcentre where both Maori and Pakeha parents are both striving for the same thing, better education for their children.
In August, three Pakeha children joined our group and Oh! the bewildered look upon our Maori children's faces was a rare sight, but after a few sessions anyone seeing them play together would think they have been doing so all their lives. This increased our roll to fourteen.
At the end of the year the Committee held a very successful Gala Day which realised almost £29. Everyone present enjoyed themselves partaking in Sports and Lolly Scrambles. The Bring and Buy stall assistants were kept very busy throughout the whole day selling everything from suits to buttons, also the canteen, and everyone went home tired but happy.
We look back over the past year with no regrets, but only with pride, and look forward to the coming year with hope and confidence knowing that all our hard work was not in vain because we are at last helping our children to feel established in the world before they start their long school life ahead of them.
Please let this be a starting point for another Maori Playcentre in New Zealand and we will be eagerly scanning these pages to read your report.
Best of luck, Kia ora.