For a number of years, a total immersion early learning centre has been a dream for Cook Islands NZ families. It was a priority highlighted by communities across NZ in the inaugural Cook Islands national strategy 2012 – 2015; a strategy brought together by a group of volunteers.
Approved funding through the Ministry of Education for a 60 children facility in Mangere was received in 2015 and in 2016, the Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board approved to lease approximately 640m2 of Old School Reserve in Mangere for the building of the facility. With the incredible Project Management and Architectural support of Strachan Group Architects and its many agents the resource consent has been lodged and was approved in January 2018. It took many years of relationship building and securing investment for us to get to the point that on Tuesday 25th February 2020, we not only greeted the rising sun, but were also joined by many to break ground.
The Tamariki Takitumu Punanga Reo offered a total immersion learning center, but after consulting with parents, moved to a multi-lingual curriculum (https://www.ero.govt.nz/review-
reports/tamariki-takitumu-punanga-reo-21-06-2018/). We are determined make sustain this total immersion curriculum and hope to replicate this model across NZ. We have a wealth of
skilled and talented teachers & educators (Cook Islands Teachers & Educators Collective NZ headed by Tupou Manapori & Teremoana Hodges) who have designed the curriculum and will lead this out to our children. It sits as part of a broader strategy to protect, preserve, and promote Cook Islands language and culture.
In South Auckland there are more than 10,000+ households who associate with the Cook Islands ethnicity, and yet the current Early Childhood Education system does not cater for them all. Sustainable development of Cook Islands people in New Zealand and at home cannot happen without the vibrancy of our reo. It stands at the center of our culture and what we bring to NZ society.
We would like to extend our warmest gratitude to the Ministry of Education, the Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board, Auckland Teaching Gardens, Strachan Group, Stryde Projects, Alfred Ngaro, Kiki Maoate, Tuareka Trust, Cook Islands leaders from Whangarei right down to Invercargill, the Consulate General, Pa Ariki, our lovely Mama’s, and many more for being part of the ground breaking ceremony. We would especially like to thank our cute little babies for leading the way and breaking ground first!