Iwi-based kaupapa supports learning

A Ngāti Toa learning hub, Te Puna Mātauranga, is supporting Māori education achievement through a unique model of collaboration between schools, whānau and Iwi.

The idea of supporting Māori education achievement through a collaboration between schools, whānau and Iwi was sparked when Bianca Elkington, Iwi education coordinator for learning hub Te Puna Mātauranga, was at high school. Bianca grew up near the Takapūwāhia Marae in Porirua.

“We live as a collective – that’s the nature of Iwi – and there’s a lot of knowledge being transferred through whānau interaction.

“The way we are brought up affects how we experience education. When I went to secondary school outside the area, it did mean I had to leave a little bit of who I was at home just to survive the system.

“When I was about 13 or 14, I had an experience in a maths class where my teacher wouldn’t give me any homework, and one day I asked why. She told me in front of all my peers: ‘It’s because you people don’t do it’ and when I asked, ‘What do you mean by “you people”?’, she replied, ‘Māori’.

“I will never forget it. That was the first realisation I had that ‘heck, maybe not everyone has the same expectations of me as my family do, which is to be successful and to do something great’,” says Bianca.

Passion for Māori success

Bianca Elkington and her team work with Porirua primary schools and individual secondary school students.

Bianca Elkington and her team work with Porirua primary schools and individual secondary school students.

That experience set Bianca on the road to a Master of Education, where she was able to explore a kaupapa of supporting whānau and tamariki to move through education safely.

“After reading and researching, my passion to support Māori educational success grew. I drew on my own experience and used that as a tool to develop a model that ensured whānau have the biggest say in their children’s education.

“Had my mum not been in study at the time, she probably wouldn’t have pushed me to do what I did. Then I started to think, ‘what about all these kids and whānau who don’t feel confident to navigate their way through this system on their own?’ What kind of voice do they have in the school system? We know there are many kids who have experienced similar racism and bias in the education system and who speaks for them?”

Pathways to positive outcomes

Te Puna Mātauranga began in 2015 and It offers a range of educational, cultural programmes and support to local schools and Ngāti Toa and Māori students in the Porirua area.

Bianca and her team work with five Porirua primary schools and a number of individual secondary school students.

The ‘Puna’ aligns with Ngāti Toa’s education strategy to exert rangitiratanga (self-determination) and develop pathways to positive outcomes for their tamariki and rangatahi.

A targeted programme sees primary schools identify Ngāti Toa children who would benefit from outside school support through one-on-one tutoring.

Staff from the Puna liaise with whānau and the school and work with students. The students also attend a weekly after-school programme aimed at providing learning through multiple contexts relevant to them as Māori and Ngāti Toa.

When the Puna couldn’t cater for all of the children in the targeted programme, another all-comers weekly after-school programme was started, where key competencies such as reading, writing, maths, te reo Māori and science are taught. Between 20 and 30 children a week attend the primary school tuition programmes.

Tiwini, Kewa and Skylah blow out the cobwebs at Pā Wānanga - weekly reo workshops.

Tiwini, Kewa and Skylah blow out the cobwebs at Pā Wānanga - weekly reo workshops.

Secondary school students attend a weekly open tutorial night where they get support from each other and the Puna’s teachers.

A collaboration with Victoria University has resulted in a pool of secondary training teachers who are keen to gain work experience in a community education hub. These teachers are matched with students who need one-to-one support in a subject.

“That’s been a good resource for our whānau and our kids, because sometimes our kids will come to us and say ‘I just don’t understand my science teacher’ or ‘I don’t feel like they like me...’ If there’s no relationship, we know that the learning is going to be slow, if at all,” Bianca explains.

Engaging curriculum

Understanding where the gaps are for Māori students is part of the drive for the staff at Te Puna Mātauranga.

Through conversations with schools, whānau and rangatahi and with support of the Iwi environmental team and the Department of Conversation, Kaitiaki o te Taiao was created.

This environmental education programme was developed to support rangatahi to recognise the influence Te Ao Māori has in science and to help students recognise this perspective as a legitimate field within the sciences.

“We didn’t want our Māori kids to shy away from science because ‘my world view isn’t reflected in my learning at school’. So we developed this programme with the help of Mana College and have run this now with different rangatahi at the school for the past three years,” Bianca says.

“It’s really about legitimising their understanding of Te Ao Māori within the science area and we know of two to three rangatahi taking science in NCEA Level 2, who are interested in a mātauranga Māori view of science.”

Bianca would ultimately like to see schools working with whānau and Iwi to develop a curriculum that engages Māori students. “The beauty about having an Iwi-based education hub is that we understand the kids and their whānau in a different light to what schools could ever do.

“When you work together to develop a curriculum, or to look at things that are going on in school, then you can’t fail, because if you are working together you are bringing two views together for the benefit of the kids.”

No barriers for Iwi

Bianca says that schools can find it difficult to communicate or engage with some whānau effectively, which can result in a child’s whānau being virtually excluded.

“We don’t have those barriers. As a third party, I can look at the name and go ‘oh I know that whānau, leave it with me, let me go and have a conversation’ and the next thing, we are working together. It can be as easy as that, or it can be a little bit difficult, but the more heads around the table, the better.

“An example is a school that had based information about a child on assumptions which weren’t correct; they thought the whānau didn’t care. Once we were able to sort it out, the child’s confidence skyrocketed.

“We can offer schools knowledge about who the children are, where they fit in our community and that they have whānau wrapped around them as they journey through education,” Bianca says.

Cultural connectedness

Ngāti Toa has a vision to build capacity and participation among their whānau, hapū and Iwi. “We would love to increase the time we have with our tamariki and rangatahi,” Bianca says.

Te Puna kaiako, Nivarna Wi-Neera  teaching at Pā Wānanga - weekly reo workshops. Haneira and Grace follow the story.

Te Puna kaiako, Nivarna Wi-Neera teaching at Pā Wānanga - weekly reo workshops. Haneira and Grace follow the story.

In the meantime, the Puna runs weekly Pā Wānanga programmes where te reo Māori, tikanga, and Ngāti Toa knowledge and values are taught.

They also ran a successful cultural connectedness programme for students from a local high school who identify as Māori.

“We recognised with the school that sometimes these kids are fumbling their way through school and a common factor was their lack of knowledge of who they are as Māori.

“We wanted to see how we could support them so we developed an eight-week programme where we took these kids on a journey of understanding of who they were as Māori – using our resources, marae and Iwi experts to come in and work alongside them,” Bianca explains.

“We had 15 kids on that programme. Three of them came in knowing their pepeha. The rest of them hadn’t a clue; in fact, some had very little to use as a starting point.

“The first week these kids were shy, they didn’t want to share, but by week eight, they were standing on the marae in front of their whānau, proudly saying where they came from and telling stories about their home.”

High expectations

There is a whakataukī: Don’t teach me about my culture, but use my culture to teach me.

“When we talk about our kids, we are talking about multiple people having expectations for them,” Bianca says.

“So when one of our kids achieves something – passes NCEA, or gets a scholarship, or moves into a trade – we are all celebrating because we feel we have been there for that whole journey, cheering on from the sidelines.

“Our expectations are high and we will do anything to help them succeed. What I find sad is sometimes hearing what the expectations are for our kids in schools – that they differ from ours and our whānau and that’s another area where we are working. We advocate for our kids – that’s part of our work.”

Bianca says she hasn’t come across a school that doesn’t want to engage with Iwi. “But I have come across schools that want to engage on their terms. But the way that we work is we are always open to a conversation, always. Because it’s going to mean positive changes for our kids and, if it puts us in a space where we can push, then we’re up for it.”

Wisdom and power of Iwi

Te Puna Mātauranga’s programmes are funded annually by the Ministry of Education and Bianca says the lack of continuity means that sustainability and planning are always on their minds. She says sustainable support from the Ministry of Education would enable them to fully demonstrate the power Iwi can have in education.

A lack of guaranteed financial support has meant that the teaching team has reduced. The programme began with a team of eight, all trained in education, including five qualified teachers. The Puna now operates with less than four full time equivalents.

Bianca believes much of the Puna’s work should be happening already within areas of education that are continuously funded. “The problem is we are running programmes/projects. What we are really interested in from an Iwi perspective, is supporting schools to develop a curriculum that is reflective of these programmes and these Māori children that are sitting right there in classrooms.

"Trust the wisdom of the Iwi. This is the time in Aotearoa to lift our game," she says.

In the next issue of Education Gazette, you’ll hear from teachers and parents about the difference that Te Puna Mātauranga has made for them. 

Source: Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero

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