Kapa haka has its place, but Gisborne kids’ place is at their school desks

A Gisborne school principal who is squawking about his charges being denied time off from their studies to attend a song-and-dance festival needs to think bloody hard about his priorities.

The bugger is reported to be riled after a request for schools in Tairawhiti to have time off during the Te Matatini o Te Ra Festival next year was refused.

It’s not fair, he reckons, because schools nationwide will come to a standstill for the Rugby World Cup.

The national kapa haka festival in February is expected to attract tens of thousands of people to Gisborne.

The school principal says he requested two days off for the “cultural importance” of the event.

Lytton High School principal Jim Corder says: “It seems to be appropriate to make changes for something like the Rugby World Cup but doesn’t seem to be appropriate to make allowances for events of cultural significance to the region.”

He sounds like a stroppy bugger, this Corder bloke.

He is also the Tairawhiti Area and Secondary School Principals’ Association chairman and he says having the school holidays rearranged for the Rugby World Cup is “ridiculous”, as most of the country is not affected by the cup.

Actually, Alf shares his concern that school holidays have been rearranged to coincide with the final two weeks of the tournament in Auckland.

And Alf is on Corder’s side when he says:

“It’s a little ridiculous to change school holidays, to be honest.

“It’s not really in the best interest of students for one sporting event to turn the country inside out.”

But Corder is a bit late to be grumbling now.

The Education Ministry instructed schools back in February that they must adjust their school terms to allow for a longer than normal holiday in October, when New Zealand hosts the final stages of the international sporting event.

Terms one and two have been extended, forcing the term breaks to fall later than they normally would.

The fourth term, when senior students take their external exams, has been cut by two weeks.

Several secondary schools criticised the changes at that time, saying they will disrupt exam preparations in October.

There’s rationale of sorts for the changes: they have been made to ease pressure on traffic flows and public transport, mostly in Auckland.

Oh, and the decision to change the school year was made way back in 2007 by then-Labour education and Rugby World Cup minister Trevor Mallard.

The education sector was consulted widely – the way Alf recalls it – and the total length of the school year remained unchanged.

That’s a bit different from taking two days off school to attend a bloody kapa haka festival.

It’s especially important that schools get to grips with improving the exam pass rates of their Maori students and encourage them to move on to tertiary education.

That Flavell feller – Te Roarer Flavell is it? – was bleating in Parliament only the other day about educational issues.

Much of the research states that Māori are at the bottom of the heap, he said.

Māori children in schools continue to underperform: in early childhood, primary and secondary schools, and universities, it is the same.

So I mourn for myself, my people, and the Māori people at large, at what these statistics and research show.

It is not as if these circumstances are of recent times. Not at all. It is something from years past.

So here we are now, and here I am asking questions: “Where do we look? Where is the way forward? Where is the vision that this generation is yearning for?”.

Let’s not forget the latest Maori unemployment figures “horrified Labour and the Maori Party”.

New Zealand’s unemployment rate surged back to a 10-year high in the second quarter of the year, it was revealed today.

While unemployment overall has increased from 6 per cent to 6.8 per cent in the Household Labour Force Survey, Maori unemployment is up from 14.2 per cent to 16.4 per cent.

“That means 26,400 Maori are now without jobs – an increase of 3600 since the previous quarter,” said Labour’s Maori affairs spokesman Parekura Horomia.

“The situation actually is even worse because the unemployment rate is higher in places like the East Coast and the Far North.”

And where is Corder’s school?

Oh, yes. Up the East Coast.

Alf rests his case. Keep the buggers at their desks to strengthen their academic skills.

7 Responses to Kapa haka has its place, but Gisborne kids’ place is at their school desks

  1. Tony says:


    Absolutely agree. Corder doesn’t appear to be able to think the issues through. If the Ministry of Education let the schools have two days off for this then it will be all on to take time off for any silly little regional event.

  2. Ruth says:

    You may disagree with Corder – but he’s right. It doesn’t matter whether or not the Ministry allows the days to be taken off, the kids are going to anyway. Corder’s request, if allowed would merely be a formality. This isn’t some silly regional event – in fact, it is one of the biggest Maori festivals around these days. Not only that, we are talking about one of the homegrounds for traditional Maori song and dance. Gisborne is THE MECCA. The community is already out there getting ready for it. I think it really shows the ignorance of the general public and the Ministry to not know how important this event is.

  3. Jim says:

    I admire you commitment – most people believe that the activity they are involved in is of great importance and it is to you – but for the majority many of these things are just silly little events of no real significance. As a parent of a Gisborne student, I would object strongly if school was closed to allow attendance at this festival. But of course my priorities are to do with high standards of academic education.

  4. Ruth says:

    Jim, I find your insights very interesting, but am afraid that my interpretation only leads me further to think you are utterly mistaken. As a Gisborne resident myself, I know for a fact that there are many people in the Region (and further afar) organising and preparing for the event – I don’t know that I would say the majority, however there is a fair few. Let me assure you it IS of great importance to many, – and that in fact, it is of no great significance to you, which is fine. People are quick to respond negatively to any Maori culture revival initiatives, but if it can be used as a tool to lure tourist or to demand the spotlight in sporting events, or any other international event, then what the heck! We’re all New Zealanders and it belongs to all of us. It just further exemplifies the ignorance of all New Zealanders. That’s the problem these days, people think that Maori are in their own little world doing their own thing on the side, when really all they are trying to do is retain their own traditions and customs that are on the verge of extinction. As for high academic education, I would advocate for this, however if we can’t even identify the social disfunctions we have today in society, it seems almost ironic that we need to focus on ‘HIGH academic education’, when it seems that some of us need to first learn a little respect for our indegenous culture first.

    • Jim says:

      As I said, people involved in their own activities may have a inflated sense of its importance to others.
      Additionally, you seem imply that I, among all New Zealanders, am ignorant and disrespectful – personal attacks do nothing to further the discussion and usually just reinforce opinions one way or another.
      To say that objection to a day off school for a kapa haka festival exemplifies the ignorance all NZ’ers is outrageous, unsubstantiated and really destroys your credibility.

      BTW, it is ‘indigenous’.

  5. Mereana says:

    It’s interesting that neither Mr Grumble, Tony or Jim have considered that for Maori youth (and some non-Maori youth), kapa haka IS of academic importance.

    It is for Maori a chance to reconnect with their tikanga (traditions), reo (language) and tipuna (ancestors) through cultural proficiency in waiata and haka. It is a chance to celebrate being Maori. Lord knows, not many other New Zealanders celebrate us!

    Mr Corder is entitled to his opinion that school children have leave to attend this festival. After all, the majority of his students would have whanau (family) and/or friends performing if they themselves aren’t involved in any way. That is really a matter for his Board of Trustees and his own school community to deliberate on.

    Simply because kapahaka isn’t of western/Pakeha academic importance, does not mean that Mr Corder’s opinion isn’t valid. Obviously, this is a different paradigm from what Mr Grumble, Tony and Jim know.

    With all due respect, perhaps if other non-Maori New Zealanders undertook to educate themselves on the benefits of kapa haka they might be able to appreciate the learning and discipline that actually occurs.

    It takes time, effort and endurance to learn and perform a 25 minute bracket. It is hard work. It is not a walk in the park. There are hundreds of lines of te reo to learn, actions to pick up, choreography to imitate. You wouldn’t even believe how hard coaches push members in practice.

    And along the way, if you’re Maori, you get to build your self esteem and self respect as a descendant of great orators and performers. You hone your reo and your actions. You learn how to be a part of a whanau (if you didn’t already know it before). It is an exciting and fun way to learn.

    As a non-Maori, you get to partake of an awesome culture and open your world view to something wider and greater than an individual western mindset. It is about being included and learning about another side of New Zealand that you didn’t know about. I know this because many of my own non-Maori friends who took up kapahaka were astounded about the sorts of things that they learned. About their own country, about Maori people and about Maori tolerance. Because we are a very tolerant people.

    For many Maori youth, this is part of what they need to know to succeed in life. It helps them feel good about themselves because, let’s be honest, life is not a box of chocolates for Maori.

    Bear in mind that through the assimilation of Maori people and – by extension – attempted destruction of Maori belief systems; economic structures; cultural and social values; the artform of kapahaka almost became extinct.

    This is a time of revival, a renaissance of sorts, to help kapahaka grow and thrive. It has now been a part of the formal NZ education curriculum since 2003.

    Yes, education is most definitely important. I believe that wholeheartedly. I in no way disrespect the western/Pakeha academic system because I have it to thank for my ability to write and read.

    But perhaps we should be looking at supplementing that western academic system with others.

    A Maori viewpoint would be a good way to start, given that we are indigenous to this country and have a partnership with the Crown and therefore with non-Maori.

    I believe that if everyone had an open mind and heart, the denigration of other people and/or their culture wouldn’t be an issue. We could celebrate the education of our youth in whatever format it takes place, whether it be in the classroom or on a stage outside.

    Something many New Zealanders need to work on and think about.

  6. Jim says:

    Please pay attention – I find your enthusiasm and commitment to kapa haka commendable but neither I nor my children have the slightest interst in this. Is is worth two days off school – for some perhaps but for many others not the slightest value. Thank goodness my children’s school had the good sense to continue with business as normal.

    I do however respect your enthusiasm, support and dedication to your cultural activities and I can readily see your zeal from your writing. I apologise but I can’t find kapa haka anything other than stultifyingly boring – almost as bad a a four hour opera by Wagner.

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