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Source: Massey University

Te Rau Tauawhi, Māori Student Support is providing assistance for students

Māori student support networks at Massey University have risen to the challenges thrown up by the COVID-19 crisis to forge stronger support for tauira (students).

Manager of Te Rau Tauawhi, Māori Student Support  Eugene Hepi says his team and others have moved swiftly to both provide assistance for students and to strengthen internal networks to ensure a cohesive and comprehensive approach. “Networks that might have evolved over months have come together in weeks drawing together the relatively new kaitautoko Māori (support) positions spread throughout the Colleges with Te Rau Tauawhi and the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Māori.”

Mr Hepi says a key to being able to prioritise student assistance has been the Tauira Student Survey which was put out to all Māori students with the support of the National Contact Centre, Te Paepoto within 10 days of NZ going into level 4 lockdown.  So far 733 responses have been received and more are coming in.  Mr Hepi says the comprehensive survey which covered the ability of tauira to study remotely along with their health, wellbeing and financial situation has painted a graphic picture of the needs of tauira allowing Te Rau Tauawhi to provide immediate assistance where it is most needed. This has included connecting students with services, resources and even a limited amount of food vouchers.

“We also got on the phone and called as many tauira as we could to talk through their issues and provide emotional support as there was quite a lot of anxiety out there”.

Mr Hepi says social media has also played an important part in communicating with tauira and the Te Rau Tauwhi team have created a suite of online messages and videos. Social media has also provided the opportunity to recognise graduating tauira and Mr Hepi says he hopes the individual Facebook posts for each of the Māori students graduating from the Ōtehā, Albany campus last week will help inspire others who are struggling to continue their study journey.

One of the other fast tracked initiatives has been the development of a Māori specific Stream site which will provide a one stop shop for tauira wanting to engage with both Māori support and Māori academic staff.

Mr Hepi says while he believes the pastoral care area remains under resourced, the strength of connecting the various Māori support initiatives will pay off.  “What’s been so rewarding is being able to work with Māori for Māori knowing we’re in a position to provide Māori centric solutions that will really help.”

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