NZEI members alarmed at proposal to dis-establish vital Māori educators roles

Ripeka Lessels says she is shocked at the proposal to dis-establish 53 Resource Teacher of Māori positions.

NZEI Te Riu Roa members across Aotearoa have expressed their ‘extreme disappointment’ at a Ministry of Education proposal to disestablish 53 Resource Teacher of Māori (RTM) positions.

The proposal was presented by the ministry as part of offers to settle negotiations for both the area and primary school teachers’ collective agreements, being discussed by teachers at union meetings this week.

The Ministry’s proposal has been condemned by the National Executive and Te Reo Areare leadership group of the union. It has also been strongly criticised by Ngā Kura ā Iwi Aotearoa and the National Association Resource Teachers Advisory Māori (NARTAM).

“It was a complete shock to us,” said Kaareen Hotereni, a Bay of Plenty-based RTM. “Teachers should not lose their job as part of a collective bargaining negotiation. It is just unbelievable.”

Ms Hotereni said RTM teachers provided a valuable resource to their fellow teachers.

“Our role is based on a teaching pedagogy that provides the support that teachers need to teach in a Māori medium,” she added.

“Our kaiako deserve the tools and resources they need to ensure their tamariki forge ahead to achieve positive outcomes.

“We are those resources. And if you take those resources away, who is going to ultimately suffer? Our tamariki and mokopuna.”

Ripeka Lessels, the incoming vice-president of NZEI Te Riu Roa and tumuaki at Te Whata Tau o Putauaki in Kawerau added she was not only shocked at the decision given the value the RTM service provides, but the way in which the proposal was presented.

“It essentially asks teachers to vote their colleagues out of a job if they vote to accept the offer,” said Mrs Lessels, who is a former RTM. “Worse, it cuts staffing essential to the revitalisation of te reo at a point when we need more specialist teachers, not less.

“It has blindsided my RTM colleagues and the Association (NARTAM) were right on the money in saying that it could be divisive.”

The RTM service is essential to restoring the language, culture, knowledge and histories of tangata whenua, she added.

“These kaiako provide valuable access for tamariki to their culture, something that we know from the Pūaotanga Report is needed to support Māori children to reach their potential,” Mrs. Lessels said.

“It is also strange that a Government that says it is committed to increasing the number of tamariki Māori learning te reo to 30% would even consider this.”

She said the meetings so far this week, where NZEI Te Riu Roa teacher members were discussing the offer in its entirety, highlighted their desire to stand together collectively.

The paid union meetings for area and primary-schools teachers conclude on 25 November.