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Study jam with wellbeing touch for ākonga Māori

08 July, 2024

He Waahi Ākoranga provides timely support


Ākonga gather alongside kaiako and support staff at He Waahi Ākoranga study jam

An exciting new event for Māori ākonga had its beginnings at Ara Institute of Canterbury in the lead up to mid-year exams.

The recent lunchtime He Waahi Ākoranga study jam connected students with academic and pastoral supports. Alongside it, skilled rongoā practitioners also offered treatments for wellbeing.

“Our incredible team of Kaitoko Ako Māori (Māori Learning Advisors) lead by Trina Lafaele and Ree Jones-Hansen organised expert kaiako (tutors) from subject areas across Ara to support ākonga juggling exam prep and assignments,” Ara Academic Support Manager, Kevin Brennan said.


Organisers Ree Jones-Hansen (left) and Trina Lafaele

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The 2024 Tuakana team

He noted that bringing ākonga together from across Ara campuses into a welcoming safe space, with kai and support staff on hand had been timely. “It's a challenging time and the team felt it was wise to remind ākonga that they have a strong network of support at hand.”

That network included tutors, learning advisors and navigators gathered together in one open space for an extended lunchtime session.

The Te Puna Wānaka wharekai was buzzing with one-on-one tutoring in all subject areas from maths to midwifery. Groups of ākonga guided by kaiako could also be seen comparing notes on assignments and study topics.

The event provided the perfect setting for those in the Tuakana-Teina programme to catch up. The highly successful initiative pairs new ākonga (teina) with experienced learners (tuakana) for tutoring and advice.

“We know this peer-to-peer model—which involves connecting with each other and growing a sense of ease and belonging— translates into real gains for our ākonga. Course outcomes provide the data to illustrate that,” Brennan said.


Isabella Wilson (right) gets ahead on assignments with the help of tuakana Samantha Campbell-Brown

Health and wellbeing certificate learner Isabella Wilson said her tuakana Samantha Campbell-Brown was helping as her assignments stacked up. “Samantha goes through things in detail and is helping me get ahead,” she said. For her part, Campbell-Brown said it felt good to give back to others and it helped reinforce her own learning for her social work degree.

First year osteopathy degree ākonga Stevi Hokianga said her tuakana Archie Trimmer helped increase her confidence. “Even if it’s not directly related to an assignment, it’s good to have someone who knows about the demands of the course.” she said.

Trimmer said revising the coursework helped his own postgraduate diploma study. He said being involved with the programme also resonated with the value of caring which was intrinsic to the osteopathy profession.


Teina Stevie Hokianga revises notes with Tuakana Archie Trimmer

Hokianga noted that the wider He Waahi Ākoranga event was a positive way to bring ākonga together from all study areas to share their experience of learning.

Running alongside the event was an opportunity for ākonga to book into rongoā treatments.

Rongoā encompasses traditional holistic Māori health practices passed down through generations including mirimiri (therapeutic massage), the use of plants and karakia.

Practitioners from the Io Ora clinic at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori of Waitaha – Te Kura

Whakapūmau i Te Reo Tūturu ki Waitaha provided the service from a mobile clinic set up in Te Puna Wānaka whare.

Appointments ran back to back for several hours providing treatments for almost 40 ākonga – all of whom gave positive feedback to the experience.

Brennan said the initiative was a step towards taking a holistic approach to help learners manage study stress.

“We’ve been looking for an opportunity to incorporate te ao Māori wellbeing practice into our student support services at Ara and He Waahi Ākoranga provided the perfect timing,” Brennan said.

With whakawhanaungatanga (building relationships) at its heart, He Waahi Ākoranga and the Rongoā clinic aimed to support ākonga in every way as the semester came to a close.