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Wananga learning creates a family culture

Feb 5th, 2009 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

Kitchen manager Chere Hakaraia

Kitchen manager Chere Hakaraia

OTAKI’S Te Wananga o Raukawa has since 1981 been producing graduates as immersed in their culture as they are in the technicalities of their subjects.

The small Kapiti campus, owned and managed by the local Te Ati Awa, Ngati Raukawa and Ngati Toarangatira iwi, aims to provide “a tikanga Maori space, in which our people can learn”, says CEO Mereana Selby.

Feeling supported, surrounded by family, was a theme echoed by students interviewed by NewsWire.

Many arrived as students, years ago, and moved into positions as tutors or managers.

Kitchen manager Chere Hakaraia, who has a 10-year history with the wananga, says: “Studying has been easier here; it’s pretty much because I have a lot of these [whanau] with me, all the family together. It’s very relaxed.”

She has attained level 4 cooking and computing and Te Reo qualifications.

An important part of each course is the five-day noho (campus stay). Meals are provided, including a hakari (feast) on the last night.

Whitireia Polytechnic journalism tutor Queenie Rikihana, a former student of the wananga and a current board member, says the social interaction around food is integral to the holistic culture there, and the cost of food for the noho is included in the fees.

 “You gain a degree and gain nine kilos, because they feed you all the time.”

Another kitchen staffer, Chontelle Rauhihi, had her cooking qualification paid for by Te Wananga, and says: “My gift back to them is I work here.”

Office assistant Rowina Hotene also started in the kitchen. Brought up in a European family, she has been able to go in search of her own family from the wananga. Study at Raukawa feels relaxed, more like an ongoing search for her.

“I have learnt communicating from being here,” she says. “When I first came here I didn’t communicate with anyone.”

It has been a big change for her to work with printing the books and compilations that go out to the students, and to do laminating and binding.

Librarian Marie Waaka with the memorial to her late father Pateriki Te Rei, who was the first head teacher at the wananga

Librarian Marie Waaka with the memorial to her late father Pateriki Te Rei.

Librarian Marie Waaka is the daughter of the late Pateriki Te Rei, the first ahurangi (head teacher) at the wananga. A memorial to him in the library, a painted representation of a waka, is “a contemporary take on a practice that old Maori used to do, bury the waka under the ground [with the deceased].”

Student services co-ordinator Maria Collier, who started as a student 11 years ago, says her needs as a Maori were met.

 “People are more friendly, more welcoming. You’re not so much in the spotlight when you make mistakes; it’s not a dictatorial ‘you will do this, fit into this box or else you’re too different’.

“All sorts of shapes can fit in, specifically because it caters for Maori.”

Ms Collier completed a Master of Maori and Management and a Master of Maori Law and Philosophy at the wananga in 2003.

She says some classes are wholly in Te Reo, and the wananga is considering increasing the amount of Te Reo in all classes.

Most people have some knowledge of the reo when they arrive at Te Wananga, but “they come here to bring it out”.

Claire Northcroft, a former union worker of Tu Wharetoa descent, compared her learning at the wananga with three years’ studying business administration at Victoria University.

“The wananga truly fostered a whanau environment,” she says.

“The tauira (students) genuinely helped each other, and the kaiako (tutors) went beyond the call of duty to get the students through.

“In stark contrast to my time at Vic, I felt warmly supported at Te Wananga, both by our fellow tauira and by the tutors. They really did want you to succeed and would do whatever they could to help you.”

Queenie Rikihana has been concerned that the wananga’s strength, its whanau focus, could also become a weakness, making it too insular.

She has been advocating for the wananga to send tutors to other institutions for further professional training, and is pleased to report that five are studying for doctorates at Massey and Victoria universities, and a number are engaged in pre doctoral activity.

From the original enrolment of just two students, the wananga roll has grown to 1600 for the 2008 year, studying 49 courses from certificate to masters level.

Courses include social work, teaching, computing, health, environmental studies, entrepreneurial development, Maori and information management, Te Reo Maori, literary performing arts, hapu development, graphic design animation, and Maori laws and philosophy.

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