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Company with a cause

Three classmates from Gisborne Girls' High School are on a mission to take te reo to new heights in the classroom, one sticker at a time.

Earlier this year, students Miah Watson, Sivera Peneha and Erika McKee set up Maka, the name they have given their business, to teach more Kiwis te reo Maori.

The group's main products are language stickers designed and produced specifically for schools.

“The words are all related to classroom things — toilet, office, class, ruler, rubber . . . so they're meant to be in classrooms to promote and normalise the language,” the team said.

Alongside single words are short phrases students can use at school.

The three joined forces after entering the Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) — a high school programme that encourages students to set up and run a business.

Naming themselves Karawhiua Kan Do, the group started the business to promote te reo.

Through YES, students learn how to plan and run a business and develop skills to help them in their careers, lives and communities.

Karawhiua Kan Do plan to sell the stickers and designs to schools around Tairawhiti.

The stickers are printed in Gisborne and cost around $3 each, but if schools buy in bulk, they can save money.

“The idea is to sell them to the schools and they can distribute them for free for students to put on their phones and laptops,” Miah said.

The project was another way of helping to bring te reo back into everyday usage.

“And it fits in line with the Government trying to get one million people speaking basic te reo by 2040,” Miah said.

“We're trying to push past basic Maori but still making it easy. Not just ‘kia ora'. You've heard those words a million times. We're trying to push it to the next level.”

At the start, the team designed shower curtains decorated with words and phrases in te reo, with the idea that people could learn te reo while they showered — “because some of the best thinking happens in the shower”.

But after some market research, they found not many people had shower curtains anymore, so they pivoted.

“We decided to move towards privacy window screens and stickers,” Erika said.

Not being fluent speakers of te reo Maori themselves, the students are enjoying that the business is helping to improve their own language skills.

MAKING TE REO STICK: As part of the Young Enterprise Scheme Miah Watson, Sivera Peneha and Erika McKee started Maka to bring more te reo Maori to the classroom. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell