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Tribute to ‘visionary’ leader of kohanga movement

Tribute to ‘visionary’ leader of kohanga movement

The Associate Minister of Maori Affairs, Hon Tariana Turia, says the retiring Chief Executive of the Kohanga Reo National Trust, Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, is a battler who has never sold her people short.

“Iritana has always insisted that the kohanga movement is much more than an early childhood education programme – it’s about the rangatiratanga of whanau,” said Tariana Turia.

“The educational achievements of kohanga are undeniable. But that waka has carried many dreams for several generations of our people.

“The kohanga movement has proved that our reo has a future, that our whanau can achieve great things and, as tangata whenua, we can lead this nation and the world.

“Kohanga reo broadened our peoples’ horizons. We now have a complete system of kaupapa Maori education, modelled largely on kohanga. Many of our people gained confidence to participate in committees and boards, and to run for public office, through their experience in kohanga reo. Others have gained formal qualifications and built careers in education and other social services.

‘Te reo Maori has a high profile and widespread public support, and is highly valued in the lives of our people. Kohanga have been at the forefront of that movement. These achievements are due to all the people who have been involved over the years. But Iritana’s strong leadership has played a vital part.

“She has clashed with officialdom from time to time. Iritana refused to concede that kohanga should be evaluated only in terms of education. She insisted that the full range of achievements of the kohanga movement should be recognised, otherwise she would lead the kohanga down their own development path.

“I am sad to hear of her retirement, but Iritana has earned a rest, and I wish her all the best,” said Tariana Turia.

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