How do our histories and Te Tiriti impact tamariki Māori in 2023?

Hurō! 2023 has arrived

A year that promises to bring changes to the education system with a refreshed curriculum that honours te Tiriti o Waitangi, where Aotearoa New Zealand histories are included, and where addressing inequity shapes curriculum design. Let’s unpack some of these goals through a real-life rangatahi Māori experience.

If we weren’t colonised and made to speak English, maybe I wouldn’t feel dumb.

Imagine, you’re a 13-year-old Māori boy, third generation urban migration kid living in the suburbs. No te reo Māori, your connection to whakapapa and ancestral lands is severed, with no access to the wider community of whānau, hapū, and iwi. These are not necessarily the best conditions in which Māori children will thrive.

Now, place this boy in an educational environment that does not acknowledge the impacts of generational trauma, whose teachers are at the beginning of understanding the critical importance of Tiriti o Waitangi and only see the tip of the iceberg – the behavioural issues this rangatahi may be displaying.

Māori students are more likely to leave school early or without qualifications than non-Māori students, and are less likely to enrol in tertiary education. Their rate of suspension is three to five times higher than other students, and they are overrepresented in special education programmes for issues related to behaviour. – The Education Hub NZ

Fast forward a year. He’s been excluded from three schools and is on the verge of being let go from community college – he’s on the brink of moving from the education system into the justice system, which is all very unsettling for him. For so many tamariki Māori in this situation, this moment in life is crucial.

E hoki ki ō maunga kia purea e ngā hau o Tāwhirimātea.
Return to your mountains, that the winds of Tāwhirimātea may cleanse you.

He lands at Oranga Tamariki, where they call an Aunty who lives on their whenua in the Far North. He moves there and is accepted into Kura Kaupapa Māori where his reo, culture, history, and te Tiriti are moved to the forefront. Kaiako understand him and tikanga Māori guide every decision made where behaviour is concerned.

After three generations of disconnection, his connections to his whenua, whānau, hapū, and iwi are restored and he graduates his first full year at any single school since primary. He’s also learned te reo Māori and says it’s easy because it’s written and read the way it sounds, unlike English which he says made him ‘feel dumb’. His sense of achievement and pride is overwhelming.

Blog image boy standing with mask on

This is my nephew, Tāmati’s story.

Whāia te iti kahurangi, ki te tuohu koe me he maunga teitei.
Pursue that which is precious, should you bow your head let it be to a lofty mountain.

As educators, what can we learn from Tāmati’s story? There are so many factors to consider when working with youth, particularly tamariki and rangatahi Māori. The impacts of te Tiriti not being honoured affect every facet of Māori society – financial, educational, social, and health, to name a few. This spills over to Māori students’ learning, achievement, and wellbeing.

Mā te whakatau ka mōhio. Mā te mōhio ka mārama. Mā te mārama ka mātau. Mā te mātau ka ora. – Pā Henare Tate
With discussion comes knowledge. With knowledge comes understanding. With understanding comes wisdom. With wisdom comes wellness.

Te Mātaioho – a draft Tiriti-honouring and inclusive curriculum framework, Aotearoa New Zealand histories in schools and Te Takanga o te Wā – Māori history guidelines are all huge steps forward for education in our country. The success of these frameworks relies on the commitment of every one of us. Evidence tells us that changing the interactions and relationships within classrooms is pivotal.

So, here are five things you can do today to support tauira Māori:
  1. Accept professional responsibility for, and commit to, improving Māori students’ educational achievement
    Research finds that effective teaching and interactions with tauira Māori are linked with kaiako having a strong sense of efficacy in regard to teaching Māori students, resulting in improved educational achievement.
  2. Care for students as Māori students
    Genuine care for students sets a foundation for relationships built on trust and respect, this is a biggy to tauira Māori. It’s also important to go to struggling tauira with offers of support instead of waiting for them to come to you.
  3. Build strong relationships with whānau and engage them in students’ learning
    Teachers can work with whānau to develop a sense of collective efficacy – the belief that Māori students can achieve and be successful – and develop actions and behaviours that support this belief.
  4. Transform power relations in the classroom
    Teachers have an important role to play in students’ self-determination, which means allowing students to be themselves. This requires a relationship based in interdependence, not domination and subordination.
  5. Have high expectations of Māori students
    Effective teachers of tauira Māori reject deficit theorising like blaming lack of motivation, character, or their home situation for underachievement. Having high expectations means seeing their Māoritanga as a strength and promoting, monitoring and reflecting on learning, together with their whānau, to set new goals and make progress together.

More tips can be found here: Ways to effectively support Māori students as Māori

A good education can change anyone, but a good and culturally responsive teacher can change everything. Ki te hoe, let’s get going!

Kupu Māori:

hapū – kinship group, subtribe
hurō – to be joyful, happy
iwi – extended kinship group
kaiako – teacher, instructor
Kura Kaupapa Māori – school operating under Māori custom and using Māori as the medium of instruction
rangatahi – the younger generation, youth
reo – language, dialect
tamaiti – child, boy
tamariki – children
tikanga – protocol - a customary system of values and practices
whakapapa – genealogy
whenua – land
whānau – extended family

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