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June 1, 2014 | by  | in Features |
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Is it Special Treatment?

Knowledge is the tool that empowers. Nelson Mandela stated that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”, yet there are so many obstacles to retrieving our education in the first place. When it comes to university, bills need to be paid, ridiculously over-priced books need to be bought, lectures that seem to be irrelevant to life need to be attended, and the idea of being a poor student becomes a reality. Money holds a huge role in getting through to obtaining your tohu and this is where scholarships help to ease that pain. But whānau, scholarships are exclusive and only accept certain people.  Surely that makes sense, doesn’t it? The people paying for these scholarships need to justify why they chose a certain applicant over another.

When it comes to Māori-specific scholarships, many controversial arguments arise: Why are there more Māori scholarships? If I’m 1/16th Māori, I can apply, right? The reasons behind why the scholarship is granted, or where the money comes from, is never considered. Courtesy of government funding, iwi are given the opportunity to help their own succeed in tertiary education, and in return only ask for their qualified rangatahi to come back and help in the community. This opportunity therefore becomes more than an easy way to help Māori get into university; for iwi it is regarded as an investment that they seek to benefit from.

What annoys me is the great assumption that because we are Māori we are automatically handed grants on a platter. Little is known about what is needed to be proven and the lengths we go to achieve a koha from our iwi. Proving your whakapapa and the position you hold in your Māori community is highly sought upon. The stronger your ties are, the higher your chances are of gaining financial assistance.

In today’s society, Māori are forever trying to fight the stereotype of being reliant on state funding, and for some, that could be their only income. When it comes to Māori-specific scholarships, many non-Māori hold a very harsh perspective and wonder what use it has, and just think that we get the typical ‘special treatment’. Is it wrong for every Māori to succeed in education for once? Is it wrong to break the cycle and make Māori a culture that is thriving, instead of just surviving?

Tertiary education provides Māori students with an opportunity to determine their future. Scholarships should be seen as motivation for our rangatahi to strive for success. Money shouldn’t be seen as an issue. The true question is: what do we have to show for our presence being remembered in the future? Changing the position Māori hold in educational statistics is a start, whānau.

 

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