Activities of a Maori Educational
The Whanganui Educational Advancement Committee takes a practical interest in all fields of education and its influence extends from pre-school to the universities. Much of its time is devoted to helping individual students and families with problems that affect the children's education. However, it also believes in long-term planning to foster in Maori communities the kind of cultural and intellectual climate which will encourage their children to make the most of their abilities and to become useful and well-informed citizens.
Its main venture in this sphere revolves around Punga-haruru, Mr and Mrs Ted Waitere's little cottage at Putiki which has become the headquarters of the Advancement Committee and where three linked activities are now in progress: story hours, a study and coaching centre, and a community library.
In May, 1964, the Advancement Committee in collaboration with members of The Friends of the Alexander Public Library was planning a weekly afternoon story hour for primary children at Punga-haruru. It was to be ostensibly for entertainment only, its educational purpose cunningly concealed beneath the choice of the very best stories and the very best illustrations, and weekly borrowing of the very best books, from a collection lent by the School Library Service.
It was meant chiefly for Primers 3–4 and Standards 1–2, but any interested child was welcome to come. By the time these classes ended for the year in November there were 37 children on the roll, their ages ranging from four to twelve years. The intention was to give the children extra experience with language—to encourage them both to listen and to talk, and to foster in them a love of books.
A co-opted member of the Advancement Committee, Mr G. Turner, headmaster of Castlecliff School, asked whether such a scheme could be extended to some of his pupils. Castlecliff has a high proportion of seasonal and migrant workers. Many of these are relocated Maori families from country areas. Mr Turner described the plight of children beginning primary school handicapped by poverty of ideas and language. They had not been read to, had not attended any pre-school centre and were shy and inarticulate. They were an extreme case of the ‘two years’ edu-
cational handicap' so eloquently described by some of our leaders. Other children had missed a great deal of schooling through illness or the parents’ unawareness of the need for regular attendance. Some had attended up to eight different schools in a short period of years.
With true aroha the Putiki people immediately offered to sacrifice their class in favour of Castlecliff, where the need was so much greater. The Friends of the Library appealed to members for more help, began the story hours at Putiki as planned, and undertook to begin at Castlecliff as soon as arrangements could be made. Mr Turner telephoned the secretary of the Friends to say thank you: ‘I have one hundred children waiting for you. When can you start?’
Pressure Cooker Courses
In view of the special needs of these children, a ten-weeks' ‘pressure cooker’ course was drawn up, which included examples of the different kinds of literary experience a young child needs — nursery ryhmes, fairy tales, folk tales, stories about animals and people and machines. An attempt was made to encourage
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each child to have something to say at each class, and cyclostyled poetry sheets were prepared with a short poem to learn and an illustration to colour in. These were never a great success; probably they reminded the children too much of school work.
Each of the three groups at Castlecliff contained twelve children, carefully chosen and close in age. They came from P.4 and Std. 1, and about half of them were Maori and half pakeha. This bears out the findings of Ian Barham, N.Z.C.E.R. research fellow, that impoverishment of English vocabulary and concepts is attributable to the socio-economic background of children and not to their race.*
The actual story-telling was an enormous success and the classes continued until nearly the end of the school year. A warm relationship grew up between the storytellers and their children. One little fellow, at home with stitches in a badly gashed leg, insisted on being taken to the school on story hour afternoons.
Classes were taken with new groups of children throughout 1965, and the children from the three original groups were encouraged to continue the book borrowing habit the classes had established.
Aramoho School, in a suburb similar in many ways to Castlecliff, next asked for help, and in the last term of 1964, two classes were held there also.
The Council for Educational Research was advised of the scheme and asked for assistance in providing tests which might give the Advancement Committee some indication as to whether the story hours were achieving their purpose. One test was administered at Castlecliff before the ‘pressure-cooker’ courses. This test proved unsuitable, and a new test was given to the Aramoho children both before and after their course. The new test was not much better, and all the test results were inconclusive.
It was believed firmly from the outset that the effectiveness of all the story hours would be at least doubled if good books were available for every child to borrow regularly.
The School Library Service strained its picture book resources to the limit to provide for each of the three centres an initial loan of fifty books, chosen with a good deal of thought and care.
The Advancement Committee donated £13 to buy books for Castlecliff, and the Aramoho
The English vocabulary and sentence structure of Maori children. N.Z.C.E.R., 1965.
School Committee made a grant of £10 for Aramoho. These sums, spent through the School Committees, earned a £ for £ Government subsidy and were also subject to educational discount, so that books to the value of £54 were actually purchased. They were all chosen as being outstanding of their kind, and were selected by Mrs Hillary Wooding, a committee member of the Friends and formerly Organising Librarian for the School Library Service in Wanganui.
There was never any question as to the success of the classes at Putiki. They went with a bang from the start, have been thoroughly enjoyed by both story tellers and children, and two years later are still attracting bumper attendances. This year one of the story tellers is Mrs L. M. Sutherland, one of the local mothers.
To begin with there was a great lack of books for this group. The residents of Putiki are in an unusual situation so far as Wanganui Public Library is concerned. They are outside the city boundary, although less than half a mile from the G.P.O. as the kotare flies across the Whanganui River. If they wish to join the Public Library they must pay an annual subscription of £1, but very few do so. Many reasons besides cost keep them out of the library — time, effort, diffidence, feelings of ‘it's an all-pakeha show’, or lack of any particular inclination to read. Their children, by virtue of attending city schools, are entitled to free membership until the age of twenty-one, but very few use this privilege after leaving primary school. The local secondary schools have good libraries for the pupils interested enough to use them, but there is no carry-over to the Public Library when they leave school. A few join commercial lending libraries in town.
Towards the end of 1964 the chairman of the Whanganui Educational Advancement Committee, Mr H. R. Metekingi, made an appeal for donations of children's books for Punga-haruru. By March 1965, 500 books had been received. Of these less than 200 were reasonably modern, and less than 30 were new. Roughly 10% were non-fiction for adults, and 30% adult fiction. The remaining 60% consisted of picture books and stories for the standards. It was evident that there was going to be an adult section in our growing ‘library’ whether we had planned one or not.
During 1965, Punga-haruru was made available to secondary school students as a study centre
“Wanganui Chronicie” photo
Wilson Huwyler and Neddy Ihaka helping to set up the Punga-haruru library
A reference collection has been built up for the use of these pupils and others, and it is now small but first-rate. All the books are new and up-to-date. Its main lack is a copy of the Descriptive Atlas of New Zealand, which the Advancement Committee would dearly love to obtain.
Donations of books continued to arrive and by the end of 1965 more than 1,200 had passed through the hands of the volunteer librarians. The pressing problem was where to house the ones selected for use. The children's books were put on some second-hand kitchen shelves, and some shop shelving was donated by the local store. At one stage seventeen cartons of adult books and reference books were stacked in the front porch of Punga-haruru.
Mr and Mrs Waitere cleared out the store-
room at the end of the hall and painted it, and now this little room, 11′ × 10′, serves as our library. Shelving has been made from 40lb apple boxes nailed together, fixed to the walls and painted. Half inch rounded moulding covers the joins, and attractive shelf signs in engraved formica indicate the various sections of the book stock.
Wooden bookends which we hope will eventually be carved, have meantime been covered in waxed paper with rafter pattern designs. Two large panels of gibraltar board await an artist to design murals.
Members of the Advancement Committee from Ratana Pa asked for advice and assistance, and went off to find a spare room they could use as a library. They found an army hut, and shifted it to a more central position in the pa. From this time onwards, most of the books donated were sent on to Ratana where Miss M. Widdowson, a member of the Advancement Committee and Librarian in Charge of the School Library Service at Wanganui, has prepared them for use as soon as the hut is repaired and painted.
Visitors to the Library at Punga-haruru have included delegations from the Hawera Educational Advancement Committee and the Waverly-Patea Educational Advancement Committee; Mr John Grace, a trustee of the Maori Education Foundation, Mrs I. R. Ratana, M.P., and Mr Harré, a new Officer for Maori Education.
Aid From Country Library Service
At Punga-haruru there are now about 850 of our own books on the shelves, over 200 of the earlier books having been weeded out because they were shabby, or out of date or not being borrowed. The School Library Service has continued its regular loans to the children's section, and at the end of last year Miss Helen Cowey of the Country Library Service, Palmerston North, who is also Convenor of the N.Z. Library Association's Maori Library Committee, visited us to discuss help. The first loan of 150 books arrived from the C.L.S. in January, and the C.L.S. book van will be calling twice yearly to exchange supplies.
Punga-haruru began officially lending books to the adult residents of Putiki on Saturday, March 12, 1966. In true Maori tradition the doors had been hospitably if unofficially open for some time, and borrowing had already
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A group of secondary school girls take part in a charm course run by Mrs Anna MacGregor, held in Punga-haruru in 1964
Mrs Wai Waitere is the oficial librarian and Mrs Tari Bates is in charge of adult borrowing. The library is open from two to four each Saturday afternoon regularly and at other times as necessary. Members are asked to pay an annual subscription of 2s 6d per annum (to cover the cost of the C.L.S. service) and no restriction is placed on the number of books borrowed. Books are issued for a period of three weeks, and primary and secondary school pupils have free use of all collections.
Punga-haruru belongs to the Putiki community and is run by the community. It has adapted pakeha procedures for libraries to the Maori way of life.
Generous help has been freely forthcoming from many sources. Bascands, library publishers of Christchurch, donated the initial supplies of book cards and book pockets for both Punga-haruru and Ratana. A plastics manufacturer in Auckland and Woolworths Wanganui both provided bags for the children to carry books in. Individual donors of books have come from Wellington in the south to Opotiki in the north, and Encyclopaedia Britannica donated a fine world atlas. Our own people have given carpets, shelf labels, apple boxes, shelving, paint and voluntary work Donations of money for the reference library have been received from the Wanganui Adult Education Committee, the Maori Education Foundation, the Wellington branch of the Federation of University Women, and the Wanganui East Railway Workshops Library Committee. This last was a spontaneous gesture which was unexpected and warmly appreciated.
A special section of the library contains books on the Maori people and includes such titles as The Coming of the Maori, Vikings of the Sunrise, The Making of a Maori, The Maori and New Zealand Politics, Race Relations in New Zealand, Encyclopaedia of Maori Life, A New Maori Migration, and Treasury of Maori Folkore. All these books are available for borrowing and are in great demand.
There is a saying which has been left to the descendants of Te-Ati-Hau-Nui-a-Paparangi tribe of Whanganui: Toi te kupu, toi te mana, toi te whenua (survival of the language, our good repute, and the land). The Educational activities at Punga-haruru are helping to keep this faith.
In our next issue, we hope to have an article on the new Decimal Currency.