Returning to Gisborne to study te Reo Māori has been the fulfilment of a long-held ambition for East Coast woman Te Atahaia Bartlett.
Te Atahaia, 30, took a year’s study leave from her career as an accountant with the Navy but has enjoyed it so much she has enrolled for EIT’s new Level 5 Te Reo Māori Diploma programme this year.
Although she could understand Maori, having attended kohanga reo and kura kaupapa in Uawa (Tolaga Bay) for her schooling, Te Atahaia wanted to be able to converse fluently in the language of her ancestors from Te Aitanga Hauiti.
Being fluent in Maori would help her in her career and would also help her encourage her son to learn the tikanga (culture) and language. Speaking their own language also helps strengthen people’s sense of identity.
Moving to Gisborne meant a year’s leave of absence for her partner, who also works for the Navy, but soon got a temporary job in Gisborne..
Te Atahaia wanted to study the East Coast dialect and history, which she could not have learned anywhere else.
She wanted her son to learn the language as well, so she enrolled him at kohanga reo for six months, then at a kura kaupapa and is now at the wananga. She is able to help him and her partner learn by conversing in Maori at home.
Te Atahaia has enjoyed her studies immensely, learning more about the tikanga and history of her people as well as the language.
The icing on the cake was discovering she was expecting another baby in February.
Although she did not plan on that, she was delighted and says it will be great to have the support of her mother and classmates who are continuing with the Level 5 diploma programme.
“I really enjoy the whanau environment of Te Whatukura,” she said.
“The tutors are very knowledgeable, and we get lot of support from them.”
Likewise, her classmates were like-minded people who all supported each other.
The family-friendly environment meant mothers could bring their newborn babies to class for the first few months.
Te Atahaia plans to return to work in February 2020 once she has completed the year-long programme.