A Marae in Every School?

  • Kay Urlich

 If you think learning Te Rao (Maori Language) is a no-brainer, what about adding a Marae (Maori Meeting house) to every school for the wellbeing of each child? Yes or No?   

To solve the world’s most complex problems, scholars and policy makers are exploring new ideas. But the problem with this thinking is that searching for new ideas in the limited range of a single paradigm dominated by control and hierarchy is counter productive according to Buckminster Fuller who said “You cannot solve the problem with the same mind that created it.”

The only way out of this is to seek dialogue and diversity from other perspectives – such as having a marae in all schools. Many schools have maraes in place so would having one in all schools help to neutralize problems such as bullying, sexual assault and youth suicide?

Considering that the Marae is the central meeting and nurturing place for whanau, hapu, and iwi it is fundamental to the Maori way of life. But, the question is, are they free of domination and control? In these times of high youth suicide rates, we need to seriously consider safe places for all children to retreat to when they are under pressure from the school workload or the bullying culture that pervades society. (find out more about A Marae In Every School Project here)

Many cry out that “pandering” to childrens fears turns them into “Snowflakes” a derogatory term coined to indicate the conviction that one’s child is more special than others and should be treated differently. Some universties in the USA have had to make safe places for sensitve millenials who some say are emotionally vulnerable and more prone to taking offence: should we tell them to toughten up?

Surprizingly many people still want a world in which kids are toughened up. Does a marae help ease out the idea of kids ‘toughening up’ through brutal conditioning? Or does it help children to face the hardships of strict gender roles or racism and to find ways to not only cope but to empower them to change the culture around them – a culture that, unaddressed, leads in time to hardened attitudes in the workplace.

Teachers are already overwhelmed with work not only in teaching reading writing and ‘rithmatic but are now also required to monitor their student’s mental health in an age of social media and rampant sexual exploitation – it’s too much to expect from anybody.

What are the fundamentals of a Marae? 

In words of Hoani Rangihau, “A Marae is the one institute of Māori society where Pakeha can meet the Māori on Māori terms and come to a better understanding of what it means to have a bicultural society”.

Marae is places of refuge for our people and provides facilities to enable us to continue with our own way of life within the total structure of our own terms and values…
The Marae is socially integrative in the sense that it fosters identity, self-respect, pride and social control. The marae is also integrative in that all people are welcome as guests. Source Awahata

Providing compassionate understanding from those with experience whose career is in this field, combined with oversight from leaders in the suicide prevention field such as Mike King and Youth-Line, Maraes would become safe havens inclusive to all. They would encourage interdependence to nourish and explore dreamfulness, innocence, and curiosity. They would take care of and nurture the delicate aspects in ourselves and others which would be seen as equally valid alongside the quest for science and technology and cultural heritage which is currently the social norm.

By merging the best qualities of both of our cultures we will change the workplace gender and racial harassment mentality in an evolving society.

We want to chart a new way forward so that by the time today’s primary school students get to grammer school they can express themselves clearly and communicate effectivily to others even while receiving taunts with boldness and even grace.

All students are unique in their own way and our job is to foster the best in each child because we want to hear from each one. This is important because we need children who can throw around ideas and debate the issues without fear of losing themselves in the struggle of anticipated daily conflict.  

Introducing a Marae in schools would embrace a more collective culture so that children who are feeling overwhelmed can rest and ask for more help and receive more guidance while being exposed to diverging aspects of our social constructs. This is to bring alive the best of our ‘living energies’ without the need for formal religion because for many religious belief is a contentious issue.

For example, Western religion was founded and teaches about the “spirit” outside of one's self through priests, nuns and praying to an almighty God to bestow benevolence and everlasting life.

Whereas Maori understand the spirit, the Wairua which is alive in you and around you that moves to the environment and the soul moves on after the body has died.

It is the deeper knowledge practiced by indigenous cultures that connects and flows through the animals the fauna and flora where there are appropriate behaviors when fishing and farming etc showing respect to all living things.

To consider any educational program such as the hierarchical Western religious and educational discipline, without discussing the importance of the inner-spirit in all things as a “living’ subject inherent to Indigenous people is a block to evolutionary progress.  

So why not include the customs of regional tribes or ethnicities equally into the curriculum to nourish all aspects of knowledge along with our spirit and that of the environment as we celebrate a OneHeart Vision of humanity? So that apart from our individual beliefs systems we honor the life of all whether they are Maori, Pakeha, or a new immigrant.

To find out more about the Aotearoa Vision

Find out more Go to Books 

Read ‘A Path to Peace in the Middle East: An Aotearoa Vision available free until 28th February 2019. Then Ebook is available for purchase at www.amazon.com/kayurlich    


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