Whakarongo ki tōku reo Engaging the voices of ākonga in hauora education

Issue: Volume 102, Number 12

Posted: 13 September 2023
Reference #: 1HAc6q

Education Gazette explores the Grow Waitaha programme in Canterbury and their newest newest resource, Whakarongo ki tōku reo: He kete tūhono ākonga ki te hauora | Hear my voice: A guide for engaging ākonga in wellbeing. We also highlight last year’s ākonga-led wellbeing hui.

2. Whakarongo ki toku reo 01

Ākonga at Pareawa Banks Avenue School in Richmond, Ōtautahi enjoy flexible learning environments in their new school, which replaces their previous school damaged in the Christchurch earthquakes.

Grow Waitaha was created in post-earthquake Ōtautahi (Christchurch) with the aim to encourage all ākonga to thrive as cultural learners in a time when the school community was rebuilding itself.

The programme helps guide schools through a change process to ensure kaiako have the confidence and support to expand their expertise to meet new challenges. It’s recently been extended until 2025, with revised goals and projects.

Storytelling lead Helen MacGougan says the programme was named Grow Waitaha in reference to the intent to collectively grow and transform the education sector.

“Learners at the centre of change is how we believe citywide educational transformation is most likely,” she says.

Tau tahi, tipu tahi – collaborating together, learning together is the foundation stone of Grow Waitaha mahi, and it’s linked to four pillars: futures, pathways, equity and inclusion, and wellbeing.

Helen explains the wellbeing pou focuses on empowering ākonga and kaiako with tools to support their own wellbeing, through fostering a sense of identity, belonging and place.

Inspired by this pou, a secondary student wellbeing network was created in 2020 with student-led events held and supported by the wider programme. 

“The aim of the across-school networks that Grow Waitaha supports has always been that they become self-sustaining networks of kura, kaiako and ākonga,” says Helen.

2. Whakarongo ki toku reo 02

Radha and Lachie, co-leaders of the rangatahi-led Christchurch Schools Wellbeing Hui.

Wellbeing hui

In 2022, a group of high school ākonga noticed that Waitaha rangatahi were struggling to cope with the many overarching challenges the world faces today, from climate events, pandemics, lockdowns, casual and overt racism, to the ongoing trauma from the 15 March 2019 terror attack and the Christchurch 2010/11 earthquakes.

“Many rangatahi acknowledge that living with the reality of these events is an ongoing challenge. The future can feel quite grim,” says Helen.

Together, wellbeing leaders from St Andrew’s College and Hillmorton High School, Bonnie, Lida, Yuki, Dylan and Ngan, joined forces to co-design a special rangatahi-led hui.

They worked alongside Mahia te Aroha, an organisation born from the wrap-around compassion from the 15 March terror attack.

“The 2022 Christchurch Schools Wellbeing Hui was an example of confident and capable rangatahi coming together to make a difference with the support of their schools,” says Helen.

The goal of the hui was to enhance a sense of tūrangawaewae and belonging, based on Hillmorton High’s key school value.

“We felt there was an urgency to hear the voices of our rangatahi in Ōtautahi, especially around their thoughts on tūrangawaewae in Christchurch. We felt it was important to be able to have an open conversation around having a tūrangawaewae in such a multicultural city,” says Radha.  

Eighty ākonga from Canterbury high schools attended the event, wearing their own clothes to combat any stereotypes that come from the Cantabrian joke, “What school are you from?”

“You can imagine that if they’d all come in uniforms, they’d be sitting in their schools and they’d be identifiable, but without uniforms, they weren’t from a school. They were just people from Canterbury,” says Radha.

“I think to really understand other people’s feelings and experiences, you have to come away from the whole school idea.”

2. Whakarongo ki toku reo 03

The winner of Year 3–4 group entry DigiAwards 2022, Whītau School for their entry ‘Be Responsible - Look After Our Planet’.

Connect and reflect

The hui started with icebreakers, allowing ākonga to get to know each other in a relaxed and fun atmosphere, ready to be vulnerable and take on challenging conversations. 

Next, rangatahi heard speeches from different ākonga, including an award-winning slam poem by St Andrew’s student Lily (now Year 13) about her experience of everyday racism, and a talk by Sadra Sultani, now at the University of Canterbury, who shared her life as a young Muslim woman.

After each speech, rangatahi were organised into small groups and were encouraged to reflect and share their own personal experiences. 

“While there are plenty of resources available to our rangatahi in terms of their mental health and wellbeing, the first step is to make people comfortable enough to open up. This was one of our main goals during not only the hui, but the planning process as well; creating a safe environment where it’s more than OK to speak up and reach out,” says Radha.

Because the event was designed and led by rangatahi, it stood out from other events organised by kaiako. The focus was on empowering rangatahi to share their own voices and connect with each other.

“Especially those discussions which stem from asking the uncomfortable questions, and even just having a time and a place to have these all so important questions. Creating the hui with other ākonga also allowed us to bring forth the questions and conversations that we, as young people, felt necessary to answer,” says Lachlan.

Ngan says the hui provided young people with a platform to speak out, explaining that society tends to ignore the concerns of young people, being “too young to understand complicated problems”.

“Rangatahi should be encouraged and empowered to lead our generation into the future… our voices are important, and our input should be heard,” she says.

Ākonga left the hui knowing their tūrangawaewae in Waitaha, but there is room for improvement, and they can lead this change. Another hui is now in the works.

“We broke down invisible barriers and preconceptions with our honesty and passion, while tackling tough conversations and discussing solutions to make Ōtautahi a welcoming city for all rangatahi here,” says Ngan.

“We want to establish events such as these in the culture in Canterbury, so that all ākonga can benefit from these events,” adds Radha.

2. Whakarongo ki toku reo 04

Gender diverse rangatahi share the ways we can create safer and more empowering places of learning.

Educational tools

Since Grow Waitaha was established in 2015, the programme has worked to create educational tools for kaiako and ākonga to overcome wellbeing challenges.

Some of these resources include guides on how to empower and include gender-diverse ākonga. 

The newest resource is called Whakarongo ki tōku reo: He kete tūhono ākonga ki te hauora| Hear my voice: A guide for engaging ākonga in wellbeing.

It’s designed to assist educators and ākonga to engage in wellbeing discussions and activities, all from the ākonga perspective.

The 2022 wellbeing hui highlighted the need for ākonga insight into decision-making processes and positive changes related to their hauora.

Guide creator Suzi Gould says the aim is to empower both educators and students to “collaboratively design meaningful approaches to enhance wellbeing in educational settings”.

“The resource was created to address the need for promoting hauora in educational settings and involving students in discussions about their own wellbeing.

It acknowledges the valuable insights that students possess about hauora, connection, and learning strategies that work for them.”

By involving ākonga directly in discussions and co-designing initiatives, the resource aims to both empower and motivate ākonga to take control of their own wellbeing.

The ākonga-centred guide, available now, can be used by ākonga from ages 4 to 12 years old.

Inclusive Education for Neurodiverse Ākonga

This year, Grow Waitaha published a guide for kaiako, Inclusive Education for Neurodiverse Ākonga to accompany literature review and interview findings they published in May.

Educators in the region were interviewed to understand how their experience working with neurodiverse ākonga aligns with research into inclusive education. This helped to create a platform for those with lived experience to share knowledge and strategies that have worked for them.

The subsequent guide explores inclusive practice in the following areas:

  • Prioritising and valuing relationships.
  • Developing learner agency.
  • Supporting ākonga to understand and manage their own behaviour.
  • Creating inclusive environments.
  • Embedding inclusive teaching strategies..
  • Supporting ākonga transitions

Visit the website Grow Waitaha(external link) to read the guide and more information.

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

Posted: 2:40 pm, 13 September 2023

Get new listings like these in your email
Set up email alerts