Thursday, December 01, 2005

Wananga course purge called "ethnic cleansing"

"Ethnic cleansing" was the theme of the first day of the Waitangi Tribunal's wananga hearing in Hamilton. Te Wananga o Aotearoa tumuaki Rongo Wetere said he didn't set up the institution for Maori only, but that is the way Crown managers are pushing it.

Former education minister Trevor Mallard refused to pay over a $20 million suspensory loan agreed to in an earlier treaty settlement, on the pretext that the wananga had too high a percentage of non-Maori students. The resulting cash flow crisis was the excuse Mallard used to institute direct crown control. While the tribunal said it would not consider hear relating to the loan, any findings on student rations can be considered relevant.

According to Stuff Wetere said the down-sizing was costing the wananga tens of millions of dollars.

Former wananga tutor Keith Ikin said the Crown appeared to want the wananga to offer only traditional knowledge courses to Maori with only Maori content. Which is not strictly correct, because it is also trying to scrap the waka courses.

The Herald quoted Wetere saying the government attack was about reducing tertiary numbers and saving money. He said 94 percent of the wananga's 60,000 students did not pay fees - a threat to the user pays education philosophy which has become embedded in the tertiary sector.

He tipped Wira Gardiner, who Mallard appointed to the wananaga council, and PriceWaterhouseCoopers accountant Brian Roche, the Crown manager, as leading the move to shrink the wananga.

That would remove some competition for Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi, where Gardiner is deputy chair.

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