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The Past and Present Of New Zealand With Its Prospects for the Future

Chapter V. Native Schools and Half-Caste Race

page 87
A Native School.

A Native School.

Chapter V. Native Schools and Half-Caste Race.

In the beginning of the Mission, when the tide turned in favor of the Gospel, all became scholars; young and old flocked to our schools. No sooner was the daily morning service concluded, than the entire congregation resolved itself into classes, according to the advancement each portion of it had made. Those who could read formed the first class; then came the catechisms: first the Church, then those by Watts, and the first one of the General Assembly. This embraced the grand portion of the school, it comprised all classes—the chief and slave, the aged and the young. This congregational school has been continued up to the present date, although with diminished numbers, at least on the western coast; but the general dispersion of the natives, and their more varied occupations, page 88 will in a great measure account for this. It is to be expected it would be so, when those fears of safety, which formerly compelled them to cluster together in fortified places or pas, no longer exist; and each can securely live on his own land, sometimes far from their former abode. This is, therefore, a sign of progression, although apparently a diminishing of the means of acquiring instruction.

After these congregational schools, others were instituted expressly for the young. There were flourishing ones established at the Waimate, the Waikato, Otawhao, and in fact at all the Mission Stations. These more or less prospered until the breaking out of the war, which has for a time destroyed many of them, and greatly injured the remainder.

One of the great drawbacks to the permanency of schools, has been our inability to ensure the attendance of pupils. The natural independence of the Maori character is such, that it extends even to their children. The parents acknowledge this to be the case. It arises from the perfect freedom of action possessed by the child; its will is not allowed to be thwarted; its parents dare not attempt to curb it, even if inclined to do so, however opposed to its own benefit; the child’s relations would at once interfere, and demand satisfaction for any attempt to correct its refractory disposition. In former times, it was rather their wish to render the child as vicious as possible,—to grow up a great man, it was necessary for him to be a murderer, and every thing that was bad.

Even now, with the superior enlightenment they possess, the parent seldom attempts to control his child. When I reproved a chief for not compelling his children to attend school, his excuse was, that as soon as they arose in the morning, they went and gathered little bundles of Puwha, sow thistles or sticks, which they carried to the town and sold, either for a few pence or a little food, saying, they were like the fowls which went scratching about for food.

This clearly proves the irregularity of Maori domestic arrangements, to cause such a necessity.

The Bishop of New Zealand introduced the industrial or page 89 self-supporting system, but it did not succeed. The parents, as well as the scholars, got the idea that there was more labor than teaching, and that they gave more than they gained.

Several private schools adopted the plan, but with a very different motive. Instead of taking pupils gratis, and exacting a certain amount of labor as an equivalent, they demanded both: charging the full amount usual for schools, and using their scholars as domestic drudges and serfs.

Day schools for native children will not answer; but only good boarding schools, where children of both races mix together; if a certain number could be taken gratis, and others assisted in paying for their children, the benefit would be great; at present those only who receive salaries from Government can raise the requisite amount. But it is evident that such schools would secure the attendance of the children of chiefs, who are extremely jealous lest there should not be a perfect equality between them, and those of the settlers. And it has been remarked that they make an equal progress with those of the latter, when enjoying the same advantages.

To effect this object the Colonial Government must step forward and aid in educating the Maori race. It will now be able to insist upon the attendance of native children, and if there is a real desire on its part to perpetuate and raise the race, then this presents the best way, and will be the most effectual one of rendering it loyal, and ensuring its future absorption into the general population of the land.

The natives also have a just right to expect that the Government will attend to the education of their children. The proceeds of native reserves must be considerable, but they have hitherto been like streams in the desert, which are absorbed in the sand without leaving any trace of their disappearance. Perhaps a little investigation might lead to their rediscovery, and to a more profitable use being found for them than that of watering the unfruitful sand.

A large portion of the middle island, larger perhaps than Scotland, was bought for £2000, but with the express page 90 proviso, as Mr. Mantell, the Government agent employed in the purchase, himself stated, that he told the natives at the time, one great boon to be gained by their letting the lands of their fathers go on such easy terms, would be the education of their children, and their being rendered equal to their European neighbours, by being taught the various arts of civilized life.

At present there is a school at the native reserve of Kaiapoi, which has a small number of children attending it; and there may be others, but I have not heard of them.

For the maintenance of a system of education suitable to the present exigencies of the native race, there are funds nearly sufficient for that purpose in the proper management of the rents of native reserves in the northern island; and there are claims, and great ones too, for any extra amount required, which our just and equitable Colonial Government will not attempt to disallow; and in the middle island this is an obligation incurred, being attached to the conditions of the sale of those widely extended provinces.

In 1862 the Government appointed Inspectors of schools. One of these visited Wairarapa, and summoned a meeting of the natives there to point out the importance of instruction to them; a large number assembled, he addressed them through an interpreter, reminding them of their former debased and degraded state, as well as of their present ignorance of all the arts of civilized life, contrasting their state most unfavourably with that of the European. One of the chiefs arose and replied to his remarks, acknowledging the truth of what he had said, that they were indeed a very ignorant race, and far inferior to the European, still, he said, it was not altogether courteous on his part to remind them of it; that it was very much like the conduct of the proud Pharisee in the temple, who thanked God he was not as other men were, or even as the poor publican. This he spoke in such a calm and dignified way, that it made the Bishop of Wellington, and all the Europeans who understood Maori, laugh. The Inspector commanded the interpreter to tell page 91 him what the chief had said, and when it was told him he had nothing further to say.

The intercourse between the European and Maori has given rise to an intermediate race, which now forms an important portion of the community. To Mr. Morgan is due the credit of having established the first school for the half-castes. This was carried on many years at Otawhao, for both sexes; the children made great progress, and many of the girls from that school have been eligibly married to the settlers. Similar marriages have taken place in every part of the island, and thus they are forming a connecting link between the two races.

The half-castes are not only remarkable for their fine well-formed persons, but also for their intellectual powers; one of these is now a member of the Royal Academy, having such a taste for drawing as to induce his European friends to send him to England, that it might be the more successfully cultivated.

In general, the half-castes have sided rather with the European than the Maori, but some have remained with their native relations during the whole of the war. It is important that especial attention should be given to the education of the half-castes, for those who have been totally neglected and left entirely with the natives have become the most dangerous and determined enemies of the Government.

Whilst, therefore, the New Zealand Government pays its attention to the organization of a system of government which shall apply to the European section of the population, we trust it will also be sufficiently comprehensive as to take in that of the Maori and half-caste races as well.