New reo kaumātua class proves it is never too late to learn

March 13, 2019

With the call of the kaikaranga on the morning of Monday 11 March, Te Wānanga o Raukawa welcomed its biggest intake yet of students entering Heke Reo, a level 5 diploma in te reo Māori, including a rōpū of 27 kaumātua.

Two well-known local kuia, Sonia Snowden and Margaret Davis, raised the idea of a class especially for koroua and kuia wanting to learn their language at last year’s opening of Te Ara a Tāwhaki, the new library and student facility at the Wānanga.

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Aunty Margaret Davis and Whaea Sonia Snowden

With innovative assessments especially designed for kaumātua, the rōpū will study for two days a week over the next two years graduating at the end of 2020 with their diploma. In a couple of weeks time they will enter full immersion learning alongside the rest of the Heke Reo whānau. A series of kaupapa will provide a focus for study over the year, such as kai (food), kōrero i te kainga me te marae (language in the home and marae), toi (art) and waiata (songs).

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The kaumātua rōpū begin their reo Māori journey at Te Wānanga o Raukawa

The main aim of the programme is to support kaumātua to fulfil their role on the marae thereby enriching their whānau, marae, hapū and iwi. They will also complete papers in iwi and hapū studies carrying out interviews with each other and learning the history of their marae.

“Having kaumātua who know and understand their role on the marae is essential,” says Pāpā Sean Ogden, a Pūkenga Matua of Poutuarongo Reo (Bachelor of Te Reo Māori) at Te Wānanga o Raukawa.

The Wānanga has been delivering hui rumaki reo and immersion programmes for over 35 years, a methodology that has proven successful in accelerated language learning allowing those with little to no reo to build a level of confidence to speak te reo Māori within a year.

“I encourage all our kaumātua to come and learn,” says Miriama Kereama of Ngāti Parewahawaha and Ngāti Manomano.  “You’re never too old to learn, we learn every day. We will also be learning from each other and be able to see how other kaumātua are doing things at their marae.  We can support each other.”

All of the qualifications at diploma level and above at Te Wānanga o Raukawa include iwi, hapū and reo studies.  Visit to find out more.

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