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  • Taylor-Rose Terekia & Callum Knight

Tumuaki across Aotearoa respond to rising student Covid cases

Covid-positive tauira across the motu are isolating in residential halls or as entire flats, and Māori student associations are doing their best to provide support. The topic was brought forward at the first Hui Kaiārahi of Te Mana Ākonga, held online on Thursday, February 24.


Ngā Tauira Māori or NTM (The University of Auckland) are concerned that university policies are getting in the way of the needs of tauira. First-years in halls are expected to stay in their rooms while self-isolating, except to use the bathroom, showers, or for daily exercise. If they don't have essential supplies for dealing with illness—such as paracetamol—their RAs aren't allowed to provide it. There's a tricky balance to strike between legit health and safety concerns, and providing manaaki for tauira who need it.


For NTM the immediate solution would be a policy change so that university staff can safely provide painkillers to students stuck in isolation. One solution proposed by another tumuaki would be to let RAs give out over-the-counter painkillers, so long as they watch the student take them.


Students isolating in halls was a common issue many other rōpū were grappling with as well. Ngāi Tauira at Victoria University of Wellington are prepared to offer support, but are worried first-years in isolation won't be able to contact them. With the academic year just beginning, students may not have had the chance to find the targeted Māori support available at uni before needing to isolate.


Ōtautahi based rōpū Te Awhioraki (Lincoln University) and Te Akatoki (The University of Canterbury) have been taking proactive measures to support tauira in halls, as well as those in flats who are unable to buy groceries in some cases.


Te Awhioraki is well-prepared and willing to tautoko. Tumuaki Harris Moana encourages Lincoln University students who're isolating to reach out and let them know, so they can drop off items and provide assistance. "We are here for you, the tauira," Moana told Te Pararē following the hui.


Te Akatoki have been checking in with tauira with the support of the Māori team and staff. They are also providing support through kai packages with a focus on nutrition. Speaking to Te Pararē, Tumuaki Rosa Hibbert-Schooner said they’re “utilising our māra kai so that our tauira can still get healthy veges while isolating”—and ensuring all deliveries are contactless and following restrictions.


Te Roopū Māori (University of Otago) acknowledged the support of Ngāi Tahu–operated health provider Te Kāika. Last year Te Kāika ran a walk-in vaccination clinic at Forsyth Stadium in association with Te Roopu Maori and the University of Otago Pacific Island Students’ Association, which aimed to vaccinate 6,000 Dunedin students. The relationship with an iwi provider has been hugely beneficial, and Te Roopū Māori tumuaki Jade Mills suggested at the hui that other rōpū could do the same with their own local iwi.


Despite the different situations each rōpū were dealing with, there was a sense of solidarity between tumuaki as they shared their concerns for their tauira and offered up solutions.


Te Mana Ākonga tumuaki Kyla Campbell-Kamariera says she’s immensely proud of Māori student associations and the way they’ve put the hauora of tauira at the forefront of their mahi.


She encourages the respective mainstream student associations of every institution to give due consideration for the mahi of Māori student associations and offer resourcing support, whether that be in pūtea or other supplies.


As O-Week and classes start to ramp up—in-person or online—Kyla wants tauira to participate as safely as they can, heed the symptom warnings, stay home if they’re unwell, and get tested. Most importantly, if students are isolating, she urges them not to shut themselves off. “Reach out to whānau and friends for support in what can be an emotionally stressful time.”