Māori Deaf and Deaf education

  • Turi Māori
  • TV/Media
A look at the cultural education needs of Māori Deaf students. Māori Deaf are likely to experience more barriers in the education sector. Interviews undertaken by ‘Marae’ shows us that the multiple cultural identities of Māori Deaf are not completely accommodated for with aspirations on how to resolve this.

Being Deaf means challenges are likely to be experienced in their lives, such as access to education and an equitable society. Māori Deaf are more likely to experience additional barriers due to their multiple cultural identities.

Linda Coley from Kelston Deaf Education Centre (KDEC) admits that to successfully work with Māori Deaf,  there should be more Māori staff working at KDEC with those students, and to be working more closely with the whānau.

We hear from Sandra Wooster about the barriers Māori Deaf face, even with an NZSL interpreter available. NZSL interpreters do not know te reo Māori and therefore, are unable to interpret te reo Māori into NZSL for Deaf students. As a result, Māori Deaf do not have complete access to their own culture, which has inspired Sandra to learn more te reo Māori, with aspirations to go onto completing the NZSL interpreters course.

It is interesting to note the style of interpreting in this video, with very few qualified NZSL interpreters in New Zealand, with the one-off course being run in 1985. Please note, the current NZSL interpreters programme started in 1992, one year after this episode screened, and none were qualified in all three working languages: NZSL, te reo Māori, and English. In addition, te reo Māori was making a resurgence after being made an official language of New Zealand earlier in 1987. With that, and qualified NZSL interpreters being extremely new in the country, many still did not know the Māori sign for specific te reo Māori vocabulary (tangi, tikanga, etc) and needing to rely on fingerspelling those words.

There is a brief glimpse into a ‘Deaf Deaf World’ activity run in a transition class at KDEC, and three Deaf students then share with us their experiences with communication barriers, mentioning that their whānau largely communicated with them in spoken language. Sign language wasn’t featured much in their home life. Katherine mentions that some aspects of Māori culture were easy to learn such as the poi and dancing as that is visual. They mention too that their whānau feel comfortable when on the marae, but for them it is “boring” due to lack of communication access and knowledge of the Māori world.

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