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Te Wānanga o Aroha

Te Wānanga o Aroha

Te Wānanga Ihorangi is much more than one of Aotearoa’s first Christian te reo Māori wānanga (education in a Māori cultural context). It’s also a place where mana (authority and influence) is enhanced thanks to tireless mahi (work), allowing tikanga (traditional values) to flourish with te reo. Ben Mack investigates.

In the Gospels in the New Testament of the Bible, Jesus speaks of faith withering on the vine. ‘If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned’ (John 15:6). Language, culture and connection can wither, too—but a whakapono (community)-based language school is looking to help people flourish.

Reverend Te Karere Scarborough (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hauā) is the tumuaki (co-principal) at Te Wānanga Ihorangi and explains that it is an interdenominational, faith-based wānanga that teaches, uplifts and promotes te reo Māori and tikanga. Two full-immersion, full-time diplomas are offered, delivered in partnership with Laidlaw College.

‘We are a faith community that wants to see all people loving and speaking te reo Māori,’ says Scarborough. ‘We see our campus, faculty and students all moving towards wholeness and healing.’

The wānanga’s vision and mission are captured in its organisation whakatauākī (proverb): ‘Ko te reo te kauwaka o taku whakapono’, ‘The language is the sacred vessel of my faith’.

Equipping the saints

With the flourishing of te reo and tikanga, it’s a kaupapa (principle) Scarborough is honoured to be a part of.

‘When someone finally gets the confidence to stand and speak in te reo Māori, their heart language, we feel God in the room … it is amazing.’ He adds, ‘Only 7.9 percent of the Māori population can hold a decent conversation in te reo Māori. People who complete our course will be adding to that particular group, the group of people that will help to teach the language.’

Like the mighty pōhutukawa and rimu trees starting from small seedlings, Te Wānanga Ihorangi’s beginnings are humble. Scarborough says it began in 2018 as an organisation that supported Māori to study theology or te reo Māori. ‘We decided that we could put these two things together ourselves to create a new formal thing that could take our students deeper into their faith, reo and tikanga.’

The wānanga is even expanding, opening a new campus in the Auckland suburb of Henderson this month, thanks to the hard work of staff, volunteers, students and whakapono.

The wānanga is situated on the ground floor of the old Waitākere Council building in Auckland, encompassing 500 square metres. The campus includes four classrooms, an open flexible whare-nui (meeting house) and multiple kitchens.

‘It’s a place to call our own, a home for our students and a language bubble,’ Scarborough says. ‘We are approaching our curriculum and teaching pedagogy through a language- and faith-informed way—we call it loving people towards language acquisition. We want to love people towards healing and language reclamation, as it can be a really difficult process.’

Resources for education

There are other goals, too. ‘We also want to see the Bible and historical writings in te reo Māori used as primary resources for learning the language,’ says Scarborough. ‘This excites me the most—we have written books and will continue producing books in te reo Māori that talk about karakia (prayer) and faith.’

So what does success look like for Te Wānanga Ihorangi and for someone who attends classes? Scarborough is quick to answer: ‘Someone who can fulfil their cultural obligations on the marae. Someone who can lead their church. Someone who can teach their babies how to be first language speakers. Those are the things that make us get up in the morning.’

But the mahi is more than courses. Another initiative Te Wānanga Ihorangi has been involved with is a three-year project in conjunction with the Bible Society to have all 66 books from Paipera Tapu, the Māori Bible, professionally recorded, mastered and distributed in audiobook format. This means people can listen to the Bible in te reo Māori any time, anywhere. As Scarborough explains, the audio project represents a unity symbolic of Te Tiriti o Waitangi that can bring about change and flourishing for Māori.

To celebrate Christmas 2023, Te Wānanga Ihorangi also released a six-track album of uplifting songs, called Āpuarangi—available on Spotify.

Looking to the future

Just as mighty trees flourish with respect, care and aroha (love), there are high hopes for Te Wānanga Ihorangi in the coming years. ‘By 2026, we will have a degree programme and over 100 students across all of the different levels,’ Scarborough says.

‘We aren’t trying to take over the world or build an empire, we just want to create small communities that are committed to excellence in te reo Māori and expressing faith in this way. I think a few communities have already reached out to see if we could expand into their regions.

‘We are just taking it one step at a time. Let’s see how this year goes.’

For more information on Te Wānanga Ihorangi (in te reo Māori and English):

To listen to the six-track album:

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