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Never Too Old To Learn Something New

January 12, 2018

Keith and Margaret Scholes – fondly known as Kaiwae and Mākere – adopted as kaumātua of EIT Tairāwhiti’s Te Whatukura, School of Māori studies.

Proving the adage that people are never too old to learn are a local couple who have found themselves being adopted as the kaumātua of EIT Tairāwhiti’s Māori studies school, Te Whatukura.

Keith and Margaret Scholes, 68 and 73, decided to learn the Māori language in 2013.
Margaret came from England and spent many years living in places like Tuai, Te Karaka and Tokomaru Bay.

She had long been accustomed to hearing the sound of te reo, especially among the children who came to the dairies where she worked. She had always thought it would be nice to understand what they were saying, but had never had the time to learn. 

Keith discovered late in life that he was part Māori, a revelation that changed the way he viewed himself. His maternal grandmother died soon after giving birth to Edith his mother. Edith was the ninth child of the family and then adopted by a Pākehā family.
She never spoke of her Māori heritage or her birth family. Keith, his three brothers and sister grew up knowing of only one cousin. Shortly before she
died in 2006, Keith’s mother told him that he was a ‘bit Māori’, which left him to wonder. Keith later asked his older brother, an avid genealogist, about
the family background. That researched whakapapa has changed his whole life.
”All of a sudden I had a multitude of cousins and a new sense of pride and identity.”

As Keith began to get to know his Māori relatives better, he decided he wanted to learn their language.

This fitted in well with Margaret’s long held ambition to learn, so the pair enrolled in free foundation courses at EIT’s Tairāwhiti campus.
Four years on, and Keith is completing some degree courses to further enhance his understanding of te reo, which embraces the history, the lore and the tikanga. Both are able to understand the spoken word, and are on the cusp of speaking te teo with confidence.

They have been adopted as kaumātua by fellow students and become known on the campus as Mākere and Kaiwae – this latter name derives from
Featherston – Kaiwaewae and fits comfortably with his enjoyment of running.
According to tutor Nadine McKinnon, the pair has become an integral part of the learning environment.
“They are a living inspiration – everyone respects them.” Mākere says she just loves the continual learning. “I have worked for the Alzheimer’s Association for over 20 years – they say you need to keep your brain going and this is a great way of doing that.”