Hapū response plan meets whānau learning needs during lockdown

Issue: Volume 99, Number 16

Posted: 8 October 2020
Reference #: 1HACP_

A look at how the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Māia response plan supported their hapū during Covid-19 Alert Level 4.

Sitting in her house on Kupe Street in Ōrākei, Tāmaki Makaurau, mother-of-seven Mereana Povey (Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi) recalls the nervousness she felt as the country went into Covid-19 Alert Level 4.

“I had great concerns about my children’s education because I didn’t know how long they were going to be out of school. I thought about how they were going to do the learning being at home. And for us as parents, how were we going to provide that education that I know they really need?”

The Povey whānau has children who attend primary, intermediate and secondary schools all living under the same roof. When Alert Level 4 was enforced, Mereana’s secondary school rangatahi had digital devices so they could take part in online learning. However, when the primary school shifted to online learning, the whānau found their two devices just weren’t enough.

“All the children needed to go on them at certain times of the day. They had their own class learning sessions, and their own assignments or activities, plus they needed to be online with their teacher at different times of the day. So that was hard, trying to work around it,” says Mereana.

Hapū provides support

But help was on the way. During Alert Level 4, Mereana received an email from her hapū asking her to complete a survey about the number of children in her household, their level of schooling and number of digital devices. As a result, her whānau was gifted two brand new Chromebooks. 

“I was overwhelmed,” recalls Mereana. “I was so thankful and grateful, especially in that lockdown period. I was just so happy and so thankful for the Iwi taking that initiative and helping whānau out.”

This initiative was just one of the Covid-19 responses by Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei, who reached out to their 5,500 hapū members across Aotearoa, and around the world.

Rangimarie Hunia, CEO of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Māia, explains: “Our response was a hapū effort. We all figured out how we were going to support our families during one of the most unprecedented times of our generation.”

Following a Tiriti o Waitangi settlement in 1991 and subsequent settlement in 2011, the structure of the hapū emerged. Under the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust, two entities have been created – a tribal development entity (Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Māia) and a commercial entity (Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei Whai Rawa). At the heart of the hapū is Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei marae.

Meeting the need

The Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Covid-19 response plan, developed by the hapū, drew on all of their resources, including existing health and housing services, and – their biggest asset – their people.

“Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei took the approach that if anybody’s going to do it, it’s going to be ourselves for ourselves... we won’t wait for the government,” says Rangimarie.

“Although we acknowledge the efforts and the work that they put in to drive this approach for a team of five million, I think we all recognise that Māori needed to be able to stand up and drive this in a speed and a way that made sense for us, not only Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, but across the motu.”

Like other hapū, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei focused on reaching out to whānau through health services and through online and social media platforms. Outreach teams were mobilised to provide care to people who were isolated in their homes.

Each week over 2,500 meals were delivered to kaumātua from as far south as Papakura and west to the Kaipara. Podcasts, webinars and chat groups were created on Zoom and their website to connect whānau to each other.

Finding out through an online survey that over 50 per cent of whānau did not have ready access to a digital device confirmed that whānau were struggling to access educational resources.

“This made us a lot more determined to address not only health inequities but also educational inequities,” says Rangimarie.

“We can’t talk about great educational outcomes for Māori when half of our whānau can’t participate in online learning,” she says.

Quick response

The response to this was quick and practical.

“Our solution was to distribute over 400 Chromebooks into homes to ensure that all of our tamariki and rangatahi could be active participants over that lockdown period,” explains Shazeaa Salim, Kaiarahi Mātauranga Matua with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Māia.

Through online tutorials and chat forums, whānau were taught how to use and care for their devices. In addition, over 1,100 whānau in Aotearoa and Australia received education packs that included stationery items such as rulers, pens, rubbers, felts and pencils, and also learning booklets with activities relating to English, maths, sports/PE and art.

Worthwhile investment

The Povey whānau feel lucky to have received two devices and an education pack. Twelve-year-old Malachi remembers the Zoom calls with his teacher and the excitement of seeing his classmates online. 

Although he is back in the classroom now, he still uses the Chromebook to download and upload his homework and access online resources like a Māori language dictionary.

It’s stories like this that assures Rangimarie that the investment has been worthwhile.

“I think the key learning here is that the inequity for Māori education outcomes has been polarised through Covid-19. And it takes determination, leadership and investment from Māori, hāpu, Iwi and whānau to invest in our future generations,” says Rangimarie.

For Rangimarie and her team, the responsibility of looking after the health and wellbeing of a team of 5,000 continues. For all of the highs and lows the Covid-19 environment is presenting, the hapū remains committed to its mandate to serve its people, no matter where they are. 

“This isn’t going away. The social and economic recovery is only just beginning.

“We need to be invested over the next couple of years to make sure that we’re not only saving lives but also reviving livelihoods out of something that our kids, our parents and our grandparents could never, ever have anticipated or planned for,” concludes Rangimarie.

Watch the video on how Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei(external link) supported whānau during Covid-19. 

This article was originally published in Kia Manawaroa(external link), and is republished in the Education Gazette with permission.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 10:35 am, 8 October 2020

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