• Taylor Terekia

Te Mana Ākonga Releases Report on the Impacts of COVID-19 on Māori Uni Students

Te Mana Ākonga (TMĀ), the National Māori Tertiary Students' Association, has released a report today which details the educational and wellbeing impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown on Māori university students. A survey was rolled out nationally to Māori students at each of the eight universities of Aotearoa, something TMĀ believes is a first for Māori in tertiary education.

"This project was for our tauira. This was an opportunity for their voices and their stories to be seen and heard. Their lived-experiences matter and it is our duty to ensure that they have a platform to be listened to," says TMĀ Pou Hauora and project lead, Zaine Akuhata-Huntington (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Tūhoe, Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Te Wairoa).

The report identified a number of impacts that the lockdown had on students, however, TMĀ believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg and believe there are many more challenges that Māori students face every day.

Financial struggles were a key theme with more than half reporting increased financial stress. 1 in 5 students reported having dependents who relied on them financially, and more than a third agreed that lockdown had made it more difficult to afford essential bills.

Online learning also proved challenging. 1 in 4 students did not have access to strong, reliable WiFi or internet for online learning. 55% of students reported their experience of online learning to be negative and nearly three-quarters of students reported the overall impact on their education had been negative.

The lockdown also took its toll emotionally. 52% of students reported feeling more sad than before lockdown, 76% more anxious, and 84% reported feeling worried about their academic progress. 52% indicated they did not feel valued as a student by their institution.

Mental health was an area of significant concern the report shows, and many students shared personal experiences of how this had been impacted in the survey.

“We are very grateful to the tauira for sharing their stories. Their strength and endurance during these times is inspiring and we hope we have been able to capture a snapshot of this. We know our tauira deserve better and we hope our wero to government and universities are taken up,” says Tumuaki Takirua, Mamaeroa Merito (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Awa).

The report includes strong recommendations on how the government and universities can better support and enable Māori students both post-COVID and in the future, with clear expectations that students are involved in all aspects of action.

"It has been a real eye-opening experience working collaboratively with our tauira from across the university sector, collecting and reporting back on key themes and issues that affect them. This research has opened the door for greater exploration of how inequities in education and health are being addressed for our tauira at all levels,” says Tumuaki Takirua, Nohorua Parata (Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāti Kahungunu, Rongowhakaata).

TMA is also working to understand similar impacts on Māori in Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs) with results expected shortly, as well as in Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) and Private Training Establishments (PTEs), with some strong support from the Ministry of Education. TMA hopes that collectively these will paint a full picture of the challenges and opportunities Māori face post-COVID, and strengthen their capacity and capability to advocate for Māori in tertiary education.

The full report can be viewed and downloaded here.

Te Mana Ākonga