By Dr Te Hauauru Tahi-Rangihau, National Programme Coordinator – ACE/Te Pou Hono, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi

Tangata ako i te kāinga, i runga marae, tū ana tau ana!

Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi in Whakatane delivers ACE courses on marae through our School of Iwi Development, Te Apa Maraekura.

There are 18 courses within the ACE provision that cover fundamental kaupapa Māori. These courses cover areas such as tikanga marae, karakia, whakapapa and te reo to name a few. We also provide traditional arts and performing arts courses.

What we provide is based on the needs and wants of the marae communities which engage with us.

Our programme has been instrumental in the development and growth of over 300 plus marae communities from Te Reinga in the North to Wellington; Taranaki in the west to the length and breadth of the east coast of the North Island; and also a small proportion in Te Wai Pounamu.

These courses have three main goals:

  • To encourage and strengthen marae communities to engage and facilitate in successful educational endeavours.
  • To connect and for many to re-connect and encourage Māori learners and their whānau to engage in lifelong learning experiences that will enhance their vocational and personal wellbeing.
  • To contribute to and support marae to strengthen cultural capacity and in meeting and achieving their overarching goals, needs and aspirations for the future.

There are also two additional objectives aligned to the overarching goals:

  • To act as a catalyst for the future development of marae economic advancement in terms of preparing initial learning pathways for the acquisition of higher-level vocational training and academic skills related to the iwi asset base.
  • To promote and enhance basic cultural knowledge and awareness relating to their mana whenua responsibilities, cultural sites of significance and environment.

The administration, management and pedagogy of the School of Iwi Development, Te Apa Maraekura, are based on Māori values and ethics. Every person has a role, and every action has a purpose and a place. Our entire staff on campus come from the various marae of the Mataatua waka region and beyond, therefore we are very fluent and familiar with that system and how it operates.

A tikanga-centred relationship with each marae is established beforehand. The North Island is divided into six regions to which a Regional Coordinator is assigned. The selection is based on history and whakapapa to the area, a sound knowledge of the wider iwi and their connections to each other. Therefore, all our staff are fully dedicated to and heavily invested in the kaupapa.

Our Marae-Centred Community Education (MCCE) incorporates intergenerational community education and is supported by a Māori Centred Learning Communities Strategy.

Where other models focus on strengthening individual capacity so that they may contribute to the wellbeing of their communities, MCCE takes a reverse approach: by focusing on making a community strong it increases the likelihood that the whānau within it are also likely to be more socially cohesive. And this, in turn, will provide a healthy environment for individual growth and wellbeing.

This model works to establish foundation skills and confidence and is a catalyst for increasing Māori rates of progression to higher level tertiary programmes. Those who have been on the programmes are more likely to start higher level courses at levels 3–4. We also have examples of whānau who have gone on to bachelor, masters, and doctoral level.

The success of the MCCE model lies also in working with the community in the community; learning that it is centred around and about the marae as opposed to just being delivered at the marae. Therefore, the delivery of mātauranga ā-whānau, mātauranga ā-hapū, mātauranga ā-iwi is paramount as it is directed and relevant to the learning needs and aspirations of the people.

As one kaumātua noted: “You know, we send our people off to learn new things and get new skills at different places so that it will be useful to us here at home. But all that learning is generally about someone else’s way of looking at the world and how we should operate in it. We actually need our people to understand our world first and their place in it and how that knowledge can help us.”

A final pillar of the MCCE model is the development of marae-centred learning communities. This means working collaboratively with marae to help develop sustainable education plans. This engagement has developed a collective learning ethos as a model that is not an alternative to involvement with other forms of education provision – but rather, as well as. Overall, it is a catalyst for learner engagement in all forms of lifelong learning.

In the past our programmes were dominated by kaumātua and adults of an older age group, but over the past 10 years we have seen a dramatic increase in rangatahi who are now engaging through the involvement of kapa haka groups, sports groups and more recently parent groups where parents of rangatahi in Māori units within mainstream schools come to our courses to learn about connections to te ao Māori – bringing them that much closer to their children who are being educated in these types of units or whānau.

Māori communities come in all forms today. We engage with two distinct marae groups: Te Ahikā – those traditional marae communities that keep the home fires burning in mostly rural areas of Aotearoa, and urban marae communities. These marae are either connected to the main tribes but are not located within their tribal boundaries, or they are pan-tribal, creating a space for many tribes to share within an urban setting.

Over the past year or so, we have experienced a huge increase in the number of Māori groups or organisations that come to our ACE courses that are not from a marae community. These are kaupapa Māori entities, such as Māori women’s groups, hauora or Māori health groups, Māori youth groups, charitable trusts and not for profit groups to name a few.

These social groups are often providing critical services for iwi. They use a Māori methodology and ethos in how they operate and support whānau. They choose to engage in our courses to build cultural competence to ensure better delivery to the whānau they serve.

With this significant change in the age range, we can see the critical importance of kaumātua to this model of learning. When grandmother or grandfather is present then younger family members are more likely to be involved. When this happens there are often three generations attending the courses. This has a significant impact on the marae community in terms of the depth of cultural knowledge being passed down, language transfer, retention, and revitalisation.

On average we require between 2,800–3,500 students a year to meet our allocation of ACE efts, so the number of whānau who have taken advantage of our courses over the many years is overwhelming to say the least.

We have just recently given our ACE provision a new Māori name, Te Waharoa. These courses are not only a gateway to learning on marae in our marae communities but also the gateway to ngā kete o te mātauranga or baskets of knowledge we hold here at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.

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Te Waharoa – The Gateway: ACE courses on marae | Adult and Community Education
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