(Yvonne Tahana, NZHerald) A Waitangi Tribunal report says 3000 kohanga reo infants and toddlers are facing a crisis because their buildings aren’t up to code, threatening 172 centres across the country.
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The warning comes in Matua Rautia, the report on the Kohanga Reo National Trust claim, which was heard under urgency this year. It alleged wide-ranging breaches of the Treaty.
The trust said the Crown had effectively assimilated the kohanga reo movement into its early childhood education regime.
The trust wanted a complete cut from the Education Ministry.
However, tribunal members, led by the presiding officer, Maori Land Court deputy chief judge Caren Fox, did not call for that outright.
The report found the Crown’s early childhood education system had failed to adequately sustain the specific needs of kohanga reo as an environment for language transmission and whanau development. These failures constituted breaches of the Treaty principles of partnership and equity.
It recommended the Crown urgently consider a “more appropriate regulatory and licensing framework” specific to kohanga, without explaining what that might look like.
It identified funding as a serious problem. Salary costs are around 70 to 75 per cent of overall service costs but the institutions have struggled to offer equivalent rates of pay as teacher-led centres because they can not access the same funding rates.
The shortfall in investment has led to a depressed building stock.
The Maori development ministry, Te Puni Kokiri, identified 172 kohanga reo, one-third of the total, that may not meet a November 2014 deadline to comply new regulations.
The centres may have to shut their doors, potentially affecting 3000 children.
“In our view, the Crown must act to avoid the looming disaster in the ability of kohanga reo to function.”
– An independent adviser to oversee implementation of report recommendations.
– A policy framework for kohanga reo, a supportive funding regime and a more appropriate regulatory and licensing framework.
– Crown should apologise for the failure of its early childhood education policies. Should also pay trust’s legal costs.