Media release – Addressing rangatahi education challenges after COVID-19

Lockdown highlighted and exacerbated young Māori students’ life on the wrong side of the digital divide says a new report, which provides evidence and recommendations for how the disparities can be addressed.

It highlights how iwi used their own resources and organisational skills to support their rangatahi in very positive ways in the face of system difficulties.

Addressing rangatahi education – challenges after COVID-19is a partnership report by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures at the University of Auckland.

Written by Rangimarie Hunia, Shazeaa Salim, Professor Stuart McNaughton, Rochelle Menzies, Sir Peter Gluckman, and Dr Anne Bardsley, the report is based on research undertaken by Ngāti Whātua Orākei during lockdown to assess its effects on whānau.

The report makes a number of recommendations such as building and supporting iwi capacity to promote and enhance digital inclusiveness, providing suitable devices to all students, addressing connectivity barriers, and providing accelerated learning and tutoring to help students recover from lockdown.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Maia Chief Executive Rangimarie Hunia says the iwi was alarmed by the high number of whānau struggling with remote education challenges, so it conducted surveys to understand the specific issues and level of support needed within the iwi.

Of the 668 rangatahi aged between 12 – 17 years – including 217 senior students studying NCEA – more than 50 per cent only had, at best, an internet-enabled phone in the household to use for remote learning.

A lack of access to suitable digital devices had flow-on effects for students – negatively impacting their mental health and resilience, and senior students being worried about their future prospects.

“There is a growing digital divide that hinders the ability for many Māori and Ngāti Whātua Orakei learners to participate and flourish. This ranges from access to devices, the ability to access content and the quality of the resources.”

To address the issue, the iwi distributed more than 400 Chromebooks to whānau. That support allowed student Rereahu Turia, the independence and ability to complete her schoolwork.

“Before I always had to wait my turn, which was never easy and very limiting. The Chromebook allowed me freedom and access to do my mahi, increasing my chances of success in completing my school work and NCEA,” she says.

Ms Hunia says the report highlights the positive effects of addressing the digital divide on the future outlook of both rangatahi and their parents.

She says the lessons can be generalised and applied to other communities beyond Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei. Iwi, hapū and whānau are critical in developing and driving the solutions

“It’s critical that there is equitable access and opportunities to enable Māori and Ngāti Whātua Orakei educational success. Digital enablement is critical for the future of our rangatahi – for employment, financial independence and entrepreneurship.”

Co-author Professor Stuart McNaughton, from the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Auckland, says the report highlights how it is important to understand community, whānau and tamariki resilience and adaptability, as well as the stresses and impact of an event such as COVID-19 has on well-being.

“The insights provided by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei point to how the education system can better partner with iwi to overcome the divides and build on strengths,” he says.

Professor McNaughton was impressed by the extensive efforts of the iwi to assist their whānau and support the learning of their tamariki and rangatahi, and says it clearly boosted the flagging wellbeing of these stressed whānau.

“It emphasises the need, in the event of a national lockdown, for the government to ensure every school student requiring digital access to online lessons, resources, or learning support is supplied with a digital device and internet connectivity.”

The report can be found here.