World Teachers’ Day, held annually on 5 October since 1994, commemorates teachers’ organizations worldwide. Its aim is to mobilize support for teachers and to ensure that the needs of future generations will continue to be met by teachers.

Education International (EI – the global union federation that represents education professionals worldwide) and other education unions around the world have had a year of action “Unite for Quality Education“.

Taonga welcomed home as part of World Teachers Day celebrations in Gisborne

Teachers, school support staff and their communities gathered at Gisborne’s Midway beach on October 5 (World Teachers Day) to celebrate the return to Aotearoa of a taonga that left our shores a year ago at the start of the Year of Global Action for education.

The celebrations were particularly poignant this year. As well as marking World Teachers’ Day, it was an opportunity to welcome back the “rakau korero” (talking stick) that had been out of the country for one year as part of the Education International’s Year of Global Action.
The rakau korero is important because it symbolises the passing on of stories, knowledge and learning and reinforces the message that sharing the values and successes of quality public education is critically important.

It was presented in Rotorua last year (2013) to the President of Education International, Susan Hopgood, who carried it to New York as part of the international celebrations. It then continued its journey around the world until she handed it back at the twilight ceremony on the beach.

Rakau Korero

The tekoteko, Te Amokura, which was used on World Teachers Day 2013 to represent carrying the message of teaching quality to the four winds, had a voyage around the world. After being taken to the United Nations in New York last year, in February 2014 it made its way to Education International’s orgnet meeting of union organisers in Brussels.

The talking stick or rakau korero is a stick used by orators on the marae, and can be passed from one speaker to another. NZEI Te Riu Roa commissioned a rakau korero, known as Te Amokura, to represent the transmission of learning that is at the heart of quality public education.

The rakau has carvings on it representing Nga Hau e Wha – the four winds – designed specifically because of its journey across this world. Its korero or message was protected by the eastern, western, southern and northern winds. Te Amokura was presented at NZEI’s Annual Conference to the President of Education International, Susan Hopgood, who took it to New York as part of the launch of a global year of action promoting quality public education on October 4th. During the “Unite for Education” year, Te Amokura was passed around different countries and events by other education unions.

Te Amokura means a “sentinel” – something carrying a message out to the world. It comes from the name for the tail feathers of the globe-trotting seabird, the red-tailed tropic bird. Te Amokura was carved by Colin Te Puhanui Tihi, of Te Arawa/Tuhoe, from totara. Colin was born and grew up in Rotorua and graduated from Te Puia (formerly the NZ Arts and Craft Institute) in 1992. He has exhibited with other artists and carvers both locally and internationally, and is currently studying towards his degree in visual arts at Toimairangi, the arts faculty of Te Wananga o Aotearoa in Heretaunga (Hastings, Hawkes Bay).